Former superlobbyist Paul Magliocchetti, once the master of getting defense earmarks for his clients from members of Congress, was sentenced Friday to 27 months in prison for making hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions.
U.S. District Court Judge T. S. Ellis III sentenced the 64-year-old Magliocchetti in federal court in Alexandria for devising what prosecutors called “one of the most extensive and long-running campaign finance schemes ever.”
The Justice Department had sought the maximum sentence of 57 months in prison for Magliocchetti and a six-figure fine, while his lawyers had asked for home confinement, probation and a $10,000 fine.
Sentencing guidelines called for a prison term of 46 to 57 months, but Magliocchetti’s lawyers argued that he was physically and mentally ill and had psychologist David Blackmon testify during the three-hour sentencing hearing that Magliocchetti suffers from the early stages of a cognitive impairment that would be aggravated by time in prison.
Judge Ellis did not seem persuaded to lessen the sentence because of the health arguments alone, but defense arguments that a lenient sentence would be more in line with other election cases did seem to resonate with him.
“I’m a bit dismayed that the government hasn’t pursued all these cases with the same vigor,” he said.
Magliocchetti pleaded guilty in September to violating federal campaign laws by using “straw donors” — friends, lobbyists and family members — to funnel $386,250 in illegal contributions to members of Congress, including key members of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee who provided millions of dollars in earmarks for his lobbying clients.
It came out in the hearing that prosecutors think the total of the illegal contributions may have been over $1 million, which the defense disputed.
Wearing a blue sports coat, Magliocchetti read a prepared statement to the judge. Several of his family members and friends were present in the courtroom.
“I’m sorry for what I have done. I would appreciate it if you give me a chance to make things right,” Magliocchetti said. “I accept responsibility. I have remorse for the terrible consequences to my family and employees.”
He also talked about his lobbying, suggesting that his work had helped the military and saved taxpayer dollars.
The indictment charged that Magliocchetti illegally used personal and corporate money to reimburse the straw donors for the donations they made in their names but on his behalf. Prosecutors said that he devised the scheme to evade federal limits on individual donations and an outright ban on corporate contributions
Magliocchetti was a major fundraiser for three powerful Democratic members of the House defense subcommittee — John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, James P. Moran of Virginia and Peter J. Visclosky of Indiana — each of whom had repeatedly helped him and his clients. The Justice Department has said the three were not aware of Magliocchetti’s scheme. Murtha died in February.
Magliocchetti, a one-time congressional staffer who worked with Murtha on the powerful House Appropriations defense subcommittee in the 1980s, built his company, The PMA Group, into one of the 10 top-grossing lobbying firms in Washington before it imploded after federal agents raided it and his home in November 2008.