- The Washington Times - Friday, January 7, 2011

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.”

“You made this choice for one reason: greed,” said Judge Ellis, who also ordered Magliocchetti to spend two years on supervised release and pay $75,000 in fines.

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.

The firm made more than $16.4 million in lobbying income in 2007, according to Senate records, and was the go-to lobbyist for contractors who wanted earmarks or tax dollars that members of Congress set aside in the appropriations bills for specific pet projects.

U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride said the sentence showed that “no one — despite wealth and influence — is above the law.”

“Today’s sentence should be anyone on notice that if you seek to gain the influence of elected public officials through skirting the campaign finance laws you’ll not merely be exposed publicly but you’ll go to prison,” he said.

Magliocchetti told Judge Ellis in his statement that from 2003 he had given more than $1 million in charitable donations to worthy nonprofits.

“It breaks my heart that I can’t do this anymore,” he said.

The Washington Times reported Friday that the donations also included hundreds of thousands of dollars to the pet charities of members of Congress, some of whom were crucial to Magliocchetti’s once-booming lobbying business.

“You’ve done a lot of charitable work — maybe some of it for other reasons than pure charity,” Judge Ellis said, who appeared to smile slightly but also acknowledged Magliocchetti’s philanthropy.

“All the good things you have done in your life are not erased,” he later said.

Magliocchetti’s son, Mark Magliocchetti, was also indicted and cooperated in the federal investigation of his father. He was sentenced in November to two years of supervised probation for his role in the scheme.

“I hope you make up with your son,” Judge Ellis said at the close of the hearing.

• Chuck Neubauer can be reached at cneubauer@washingtontimes.com.

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