Will Burgeoning PMA Group Scandal Have Virginia Political Impact?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

At the top of this morning's New York Times is a story on the PMA Group scandal and Congressman Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania. I mention it because it is interesting in and of itself, but also because it has potential political implications here in Virginia.
In the weeks since the news that prosecutors had raided the offices of the PMA Group — a lobbying firm founded by a former Murtha associate that became a gateway to his office and his biggest source of campaign money — about two dozen rank-and-file Democrats have risked his wrath by calling for a House ethics investigation of the matter. One Democrat has even foresworn seeking earmarks for the military contractors in his district because of ethical concerns about the process.


About two dozen House Democrats, meanwhile, have voted with Republicans to call for the House ethics committee to investigate the link between earmarks and campaign money.

On Wednesday, three Democrats introduced their own bill to bar lawmakers from accepting contributions from those who receive their earmarks. “You shouldn’t be exchanging campaign contributions for earmarks,” said Representative Tom Perriello of Virginia.

This week, Fred Wertheimer, a veteran advocate for stricter ethics rules, and others are expected to formally ask the ethics committee to investigate Mr. Murtha, a handful of other lawmakers close to him, and the possibility that they traded earmarks for contributions and other benefits from the PMA Group.
Aside from the quote by Tom Perriello (D-5th) in the New York Times article, why did I say this situation could have Virginia political implications?

First, on April 16, 2009, the Washington Post reported on three "senior House Democrats" - Reps. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), Peter J. Visclosky (D-Ind.) and James Moran (D-Va.) - with close ties to the PMA Group (and,not coincidentally, whose fundraising plummeted in the first quarter of 2009). According to the Post article:
...the lawmakers are all senior members of the House Appropriations Committee, with Murtha chairing the powerful defense subcommittee, on which the other two also serve. From that perch the trio has been particularly successful in raising money from lobbyists, especially the PMA Group, a firm founded 20 years ago by a former Defense Appropriations Committee staffer close to Murtha. Earlier this decade the firm hired top aides of both Visclosky and Moran.
So, that's one Virginia political figure - Jim Moran - who could be affected by the PMA Group scandal. And then there's Jim Moran's younger brother, Brian, about whom the Washington Post reported on April 17, 2009:
More than a dozen defense contractors with business before U.S. Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), a member of the powerful House Appropriations defense subcommittee, have donated thousands of dollars to Moran's younger brother Brian, a candidate for governor of Virginia.
Whoops, more potential political ramifications, this time for the Moran brothers. Note that Creigh Deeds has already begun making this an issue, writing that "middle class families can't afford to have our Democratic nominee standing with...tainted defense contractors who have received million dollar earmarks from an older brother in Congress." Deeds' campaign manager, Joe Abbey, has also asked whether "tainted defense contractors under FBI investigation like Paul Magliochetti to have special access to the Governor’s mansion?" We'll see if the Deeds campaign keeps up this line of attack or not, beginning with debates this week.

Finally, there's our old pal Virgil "MZM" Goode, who helped secure $2.4 million in earmarks for PMA Group clients in the FY 2008 defense appropriations bill (in comparison, Murtha secured $34.1 million and Moran $10.8 million). And here we have Tom Perriello, Goode's progressive young replacement in Congress, pushing hard to investigate this burgeoning scandal. Could this help deter Goode from running against Perriello in 2010? Alternatively, if Goode DOES decide to run, could the PMA Group scandal help Perriello defeat Goode once again? As I said, these are potential implications, but this situation is definitely worth following closely.