- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 13, 2009


Visclosky allowed campaign fund use

The Federal Election Commission has issued a draft advisory allowing Rep. Peter J. Visclosky to use campaign funds for the legal bills he’s incurring in the federal investigation of a now-defunct defense lobbying firm.

Mr. Visclosky, Indiana Democrat, was subpoenaed this month in a federal investigation of PMA Group, a since-disbanded lobbying firm that specialized in securing defense contracts.

In a request filed in March, Mr. Visclosky asked the FEC to allow him to use his campaign funds to pay for legal expenses incurred in the investigation.

The FEC’s advisory ruling says Mr. Visclosky can use his campaign funds to pay legal bills because the allegations relate to his campaign and his duties as a federal officeholder.


House panel eyes campaign funds

Lawmakers who steer money and contracts to favored companies and receive campaign contributions in return could face a House ethics committee investigation.

The ethics committee’s Democratic chairman and its ranking Republican said Thursday that the committee has been reviewing the practice - which came under scrutiny because of a Justice Department criminal investigation of a now-defunct lobbying firm, PMA Group.

Lobbyists and PMA clients - the recipients of lawmakers’ pet hometown projects known as “earmarks” - contributed substantial amounts to several lawmakers including three key Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee.

Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, has collected $2.37 million from PMA’s lobbyists and the companies it has represented since 1989, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political money. Rep. Peter J. Visclosky, Indiana Democrat, has collected $1.36 million, and Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, $997,348.

The committee has not yet turned the review into a full investigation, a move that would involve much more intensive scrutiny with the possibility of disciplinary action. If the committee does take that step, it could be embarrassing to Democrats and hand Republicans an issue for the 2010 congressional campaigns.


Panel bars benefits for Gitmo detainees

Republicans on a key House panel won a vote Friday to make doubly sure that Guantanamo Bay detainees won’t be given immigration benefits that would allow them to stay in the United States if they’re released.

The 34-24 vote was the latest step in which lawmakers have gone on record against allowing detainees at the detention center in Cuba into the United States other than for the purpose of going on trial. Republicans said the provision is aimed at making sure detainees who are released before their trials or are found innocent can’t stay in the United States.

Democrats said the language approved Friday is similar to a provision in the pending war-funding bill facing floor votes next week that would take effect as soon as President Obama signs the measure. But the war-funding measure’s restrictions would be in force only through Sept. 30. The measure approved Friday would extend it far beyond that date.

The House panel’s plan, by Rep. Harold Rogers, Kentucky Republican, would block the government from providing “any immigration benefit” to Guantanamo detainees. It was amended to clarify that bringing detainees in for their trials would be permitted.

The move came as a key House panel approved a $42.6 billion homeland security spending bill.

The bill also would extend for two years the E-Verify program, which uses the Social Security Administration database to root out people working in the U.S. illegally.

But citing opposition from Hispanic lawmakers, top members on the House Appropriations Committee declined a request by Mr. Obama to extend the program for three years. The panel also rejected a Republican effort to extend the program permanently.

From staff reports and wire dispatches.

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