- The Washington Times - Monday, December 13, 2010

The Justice Department is seeking a maximum prison sentence of 57 months for superlobbyist Paul Magliocchetti, accusing him of “devising one of the largest criminal schemes in U.S. history to violate federal campaign finance laws,” according to a sentencing memo filed last week in federal court.

Magliocchetti, who pleaded guilty in September to making hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign donations through “straw donors” to favored members of Congress, is seeking home confinement, probation and a $10,000 fine, saying he is physically and medically ill and a more lenient sentence would be more in line with other election cases.

Magliocchetti is to be sentenced Friday by U.S. District Court Judge T. S. Ellis III in Alexandria.

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Prosecutors said Magliocchetti, who made millions as a lobbyist helping clients obtain Defense Department earmarks from his friends in Congress, deserves the maximum sentence because of the “brazenness” and “scope” of his scheme to evade federal limits on individual donations and an outright ban on corporate contributions.

They said he caused “significant injury to the image and integrity of our country’s electoral process” as he sought to “enrich” himself and his now defunct lobbying firm, The PMA Group, by “increasing the firm’s influence, power, and prestige” through illegal campaign donations.

Magliocchetti admitted in court in September to 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.

He was a major fundraiser for three powerful Democratic members of the defense subcommittee — John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, James P. Moran of Virginia and Peter J. Visclosky of Indiana — who had repeatedly helped him and his clients. The Justice Department has said the three were not aware of Magliocchetti’s scheme.

Magliocchetti’s attorneys concede their request for a sentence of no prison time “may seem extraordinary, indeed unlikely” given existing sentencing guidelines that call for a prison term of 46 to 57 months. They argued that such a sentence would be disproportionate to sentences and penalties in other similar cases, which they said were handled as a civil matter or with no prison time.

They also said Magliocchetti suffers from depression and anxiety, has had thoughts of suicide and is being treated by a psychiatrist. They said he also is an alcohol abuser and has hypertension, heart disease and diabetes.

The attorneys also said Magliocchetti’s relationship with his son, Mark, has been “decimated by this investigation.” Last month, Mark Magliocchetti, who cooperated in the federal investigation of his father, was sentenced to two years of supervised probation for his role in the scheme.

Federal prosecutors said in court filings that Mark Magliocchetti would have been “a critical witness” at his father’s trial and that his cooperation “substantially assisted” the government in getting Paul Magliocchetti to plead guilty.

The prosecutors also offered new details of the scheme in their filing and charged that the elder Magliocchetti made hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal donations through his employees in addition to what he pleaded guilty to September. They said Magliocchetti used 11 family members to make illegal donations “including his spouse, his spouse’s parents, his brother and sister-in-law, his son and son’s wife, his daughter, his then-girlfriend, his girlfriend’s daughter, and the daughter’s boyfriend.”

They said Magliocchetti instructed the donors to write checks from their personal accounts to specific candidates and would then advance or reimburse them, and that he also made hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional illegal contributions by providing a group of PMA lobbyists including his son “with large, lump-sum bonuses that were earmarked for campaign contributions.”

The payments “were fraudulently characterized as ‘supplemental bonuses’ in the PMA books and records,” prosecutors said.

Magliocchetti’s attorneys argued that the additional donations were not illegal because the lobbyists exercised discretion over which candidates would receive the money and Magliocchetti did not direct them. They also questioned the credibility of the prosecution witnesses in the matter including his son.

Prosecutors also said there is evidence that Magliocchetti knew the additional contributions were illegal and that he had received ethics training by outside counsel that included a discussion about the illegality of providing compensation earmarked for campaign contributions.

After the ethics training, prosecutors said Magliocchetti tried to cover up the illegal contributions by asking assistants to delete from the company’s books all references to the lump-sum payments earmarked for contributions.

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