Thursday, February 19, 2009

Frank LoBiondo and the PMA scandal.

Thurman Hart at the Star-Ledger has pointed out that a new federal lobbying scandal has New Jersey connections. Here's how Congressional Quarterly describes the problem:

More than 100 House members secured earmarks in a major spending bill for clients of a single lobbying firm — The PMA Group — known for its close ties to John P. Murtha, the congressman in charge of Pentagon appropriations.

“It shows you how good they were,” said Keith Ashdown, chief investigator at the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense. “The sheer coordination of that would take an army to finish.”

PMA’s offices have been raided, and the firm closed its political action committee last week amid reports that the FBI is investigating possibly illegal campaign contributions to Murtha and other lawmakers.

And here are the names of active New Jersey politicians, via Mr. Hart, who received money from this lobbying company:

Leading the way is Rodney Frelinghuysen, who received some $16,000 between 1997 and last 2007. Bill Pascrell was given $9,500 between 2002 and last year. Rob Andrews received $8,500 between 1997 and 2004. Frank Lautenberg received $3,500 between 2002 and 2007. Steve Rothman received $3000 in 2007 and 2008. Rush Holt received $2,500 between 2000 and 2007. Bob Menendez has received only $2000, entirely in 2006. Frank LoBiondo received $1,500 in 2003 and 2004. Even Scott Garrett received $500 in 2004.

Thurman Hart is a great blogger/columnist because he says it much better than me:

Here's some things you can bank on. PMA didn't run its scam on only one defense appropriations bill. Something doesn't get this big, or this crooked, overnight. So anyone who ever received money from them is potentially implicated in trading earmarks for campaign donations. Having said that, it would be incredibly stupid for someone to trade their Congressional powers for as little as five hundred or a thousand dollars. But scandals of former years have taught us that such stupid things happen.

I emphasize that there is no evidence that Frank LoBiondo did anything illegal, and accepting (or making) donations is usually perfectly legal. But the Congressional Quarterly is listing LoBiondo as being responsible "with others" for $1,500,000 in earmarks. They don't even say what the earmark is. This could be a coincidence. Both parties are involved. I'll even say that probably this will amount to nothing. But the bottom line is that because this firm has been raided by the FBI, LoBiondo should make a statement explaining the situation.