Last year, Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) secured five defense earmarks for private companies in his hometown of Bremerton, Wash., worth a total of $10 million. Four of the companies shared something in common — they were all represented by the PMA Group, the now-defunct lobbying firm that has spurred an investigation of earmarks by the House ethics committee.
PMA has been Dicks’ largest source of campaign contributions since 2001, according to a Roll Call review of Federal Election Commission records, with the company’s political action committee, employees and their family members providing the 17-term Congressman more money than the employees and PACs of Boeing and Microsoft combined.
But Dicks’ chief of staff, George Behan, said there is no connection between those donations and the earmarks Dicks provides, noting that the Congressman has also secured earmarks for infrastructure projects, libraries, naval operations and other private companies throughout the district that have no connection to PMA.
Behan also said the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, which announced last week that it is conducting an investigation related to PMA earmarks, has not contacted Dicks or his office.
PMA and its clients have provided Dicks with nearly $200,000 in campaign contributions since 2001, $116,000 of which came from PMA employees, their relatives and PMA’s PAC.
By comparison, over the same period, Dicks has received $65,250 from Boeing employees and the Boeing PAC and $49,250 from Microsoft’s employees and PAC.
Denny Miller Associates Inc., a lobbying firm with deep ties to the Washington Congressional delegation and a client list heavy on Pacific Northwest firms, provided $44,250 in campaign contributions to Dicks over the same period. Miller did not return a phone call requesting comment for this story.
PMA was founded in 1988 by Paul Magliocchetti, who was a staff member on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. Of the Members who served on that subcommittee when Magliocchetti was on staff, only three remain in Congress — Dicks and Reps. John Murtha (D-Pa.) and Bill Young (R-Fla.). Richard Efford, a colleague of Magliocchetti’s on the subcommittee staff in the late 1980s, also ultimately joined him at the PMA Group.
Much has been made of PMA’s connections to Murtha, who has provided millions of dollars worth of earmarks to PMA clients and has collected hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of campaign contributions from PMA employees and clients.
Dicks has received far less attention but the pattern is similar.
In the fiscal 2009 appropriations cycle, four private companies in Bremerton that received defense earmarks from Dicks were PMA clients: Advanced Acoustic Concepts of Hauppauge, N.Y.; Planning Systems Inc. of Reston, Va.; Concurrent Technologies Corp. of Johnstown, Pa.; and 21st Century Systems Inc. of Omaha, Neb.
While none of the firms is headquartered in Dicks’ Congressional district, each has opened a satellite office in Bremerton, and Dicks “knows the people that run those firms and he knows people who get a paycheck every week,— Behan said.
The fifth Bremerton earmark was for the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences, which has hired several lobbyists, including Dicks’ former district director.
The PMA clients also received defense earmarks from Dicks in the 2008 cycle, along with three other private companies in Bremerton that were not represented by PMA.
Behan said it is wrong to suggest that Dicks provided earmarks for PMA. “Do the earmarks say they are to the lobbying firm? No, it said they are to the company in Bremerton,— he said. “These are people who work in Bremerton on largely Navy work,— he said.
Bremerton is a town of about 35,000 people across the Puget Sound from Seattle, home to a Navy shipyard and many defense contractors.
The FBI raided the offices of the PMA Group last November, reportedly as part of an investigation into improper campaign donations. The firm dissolved in March.
The raid was first reported in February, and several Members of Congress returned PMA donations that appeared to be questionable. Dicks “has said he would return any contribution that was not legally contributed,— Behan said, but he has not yet returned any, and the government has not filed any charges against PMA.
For the 2010 defense spending bill, Dicks is seeking a $5 million earmark for Concurrent Technologies, but none for the other former PMA clients.
The ethics committee last week announced that it was investigating matters related to a House resolution that called on the panel to disclose whether it was investigating PMA’s connection to lawmakers.