A new political action committee created by the brother of Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) raised $50,000 this spring almost entirely from staff and clients of powerhouse lobbying shop PMA Group, and within weeks, those same donors reaped millions of dollars in earmarks from Reyes and other Members of Congress closely affiliated with PMA.
On March 1, Jesus Chuy Reyes filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission establishing BEST PAC. Reyes is the brother and campaign manager of Rep. Reyes, the new chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and creation of the political action committee was the Congressmans decision, his office said Friday.
By the first week of June, the PAC had raised $35,000 from 32 individuals, almost every one of whom was an employee of the PMA Group or an employee of a defense or intelligence technology firm represented by PMA. Most of the donations were made on May 7, four days before the Intelligence panel approved the 2008 intelligence authorization bill, which included earmarks for several donors to the PAC.
Reyes Press Secretary Kira Maas said there is absolutely no connection between the PAC donations and the chairmans legislative activity. PMA spokesman Carmen Jacobs said the firm would not comment for this article.
Eight other political committees also kicked in $16,500 to BEST PAC including Congressman Reyes own campaign committee, which contributed $500. Several of the major PAC donors also were PMA clients. Most of the non-PMA related individuals and firms that donated to BEST PAC are affiliated with the lobbying firm Potomac Advocates, also known as PRASAM, which specializes in defense and intelligence matters.
Many of the donors to BEST PAC also are long-time supporters of Reps. John Murtha (D-Pa.), Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) and Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.). The offices of Murtha, Mollohan and Visclosky did not respond to requests for comment last week.
In July, those three Members and Reyes provided 12 earmarks in the House-passed Defense appropriations bill for donors to BEST PAC, totaling about $30 million.
For example, on April 2 Visclosky requested $2 million for the Samueli Institute to develop an integrated medicine, communications, compassion and chronic care program with Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Susan Samueli, who heads the Samueli Foundation, which appears to be affiliated with the Samueli Institute, donated $1,000 to BEST PAC on May 2. PMA has represented the institute since 2002, reporting $240,000 in lobbying fees in 2006 and $120,000 for the first six months of 2007.
PMA registered to lobby for El Paso, Texas-based Romanyk Consulting in December 2006. Andrew Nicholas Romanyk made several donations totaling $4,000 to Rep. Reyes campaign between Sept. 18, 2006, and March 8, 2007. On March 16, Reyes issued a request letter seeking $800,000 for Romanyk Consulting to develop a program to help secure laboratories working with biological agents, an earmark that ultimately was added to the Defense appropriations bill. On June 1, Romanyk made a $1,000 donation to BEST PAC.
In an interview Friday, Romanyk said he has known the Congressman for years, contributed to his campaigns in the past and never before requested an earmark.
Maas explained the earmarks this way: In considering his personal earmarks, Chairman Reyes simply asks the question [whether] it is good for his district and good for national security.
She said Reyes decided to create the PAC this year after becoming chairman of the committee. Most chairmen and ranking members have PACs, Maas pointed out, but because Reyes had not been a ranking member before becoming chairman, he did not have a PAC. The PAC is intended to fund candidates who are strong on national security, she said.
The timing of the creation of the PAC, the donations to the PAC coffers and the various pieces of legislation is entirely coincidental, Maas said.
These are all moving targets, and the scheduling of events is all done well in advance, she said. It would be difficult to draw a connection between the passage of a bill and these events.
Among the BEST PAC donors were several executives of Concurrent Technologies Corp., a Johnstown, Pa., nonprofit that Murtha helped establish in the late 1980s and has provided with millions of dollars in earmarks since; three officials from Electronic Warfare Associates, a company that has generated tens of thousands of dollars for Mollohans campaigns and received millions of dollars worth of earmarks; and William Nichols, a partner with PRASAM.
Two of Nichols clients Raytheon and Trex Enterprises received $2 million in earmarks requested by Reyes in the Defense appropriations bill. In the same bill, Electronic Warfare Associates received a $5 million earmark from Mollohan, and Concurrent Technologies received $7 million in three separate earmarks requested by Murtha.
Reyes intelligence authorization bill included two earmarks for Concurrent Technologies totaling $2 million (requested by Murtha in letters dated May 1). The bill also included a $2.5 million earmark requested by Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) for Spyrus Inc. and a $2 million earmark requested by Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) for L-3 Communications Corp. Both companies are PMA clients and donated to BEST PAC a few days before the bill passed.
Despite its flurry of fundraising, BEST PAC has only made four donations. On June 29, the PAC gave $21,430 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and made two $2,300 contributions to the U.S. Senate campaign of New Hampshire Democratic candidate Katrina Swett. The PAC made a third donation of $5,000 to Swetts campaign, but on July 26, treasurer Guillermo Cintron wrote to the FEC to explain that Swett had returned the contribution because it exceeded the PACs contribution limits.
Swett, the daughter of Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) and the wife of ex-Rep. Dick Swett (D-N.H.), ended her Senate campaign late last month.
BEST PACs president, Jesus Reyes, is the general manager of the El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1, which delivers water from the Rio Grande to 32,000 farmers and other customers in El Paso.
He confirmed that the PAC gave a donation to the DCCC on behalf of the Congressman. A donation from a Members PAC counts against the Members fundraising obligations to the party, officials have said.
Asked about the involvement of PMA, Jesus Reyes said, I dont even know who PMA is. He said the fundraising for the PAC was set up through his daughter, Victoria Cintron, who is Silvestre Reyes fundraiser and the wife of Guillermo Cintron, the PACs treasurer.
Keith Ashdown, chief investigator at Taxpayers for Common Sense, a government watchdog group, said the PAC looks like it was solely set up to funnel money to Democratic interests in exchange for earmarks.