The ‘earmarks factory’

A rising controversy in Washington over a lobbying firm which specializes in securing earmarks for its clients is ensnaring every member of the Minnesota congressional delegation, including two representatives who have declared they are against inserting earmarks in legislation.

Rep. John Kline has accepted $129,174 from PMA group, second only in the state to Rep. Jim Oberstar ($153,600) in a list of campaign contributions to members of Congress released last week by the government watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics. The figures are accumulated as far back as the 1998 election cycle in the U.S.

The PMA Group was founded by an aide to powerful Democrat John Murtha. Its offices were raided by the FBI last month. The feds are reportedly investigating allegations that the firm funneled money to Congress by attributing contributions to individuals who were unaware that they were listed as making the contributions.

Last week, the political site Politico, reported Murtha used the operations of a Penn State University center as a “front for PMA and other lobbyists and contractors with ties to the Pennsylvania Democrat.”

Minnesota received almost $200 million in earmarks in the latest spending bill, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense (see spreadsheet), although we can’t find any corporations with significant Minnesota ties in the list of PMA Group clients. An Arizona congressman, one of the chief critics of earmarks, said he found 12 projects in the spending bill related to the earmark group, but none is attributed to Minnesota.

One hundred and four lawmakers added earmarks on behalf of the PMA Group. No Minnesotan is on the list, according to CQ Politics. (Hat tip: Bluestem Prairie)

The list of members of the Minnesota congressional delegation and the amount of PMA-connected campaign contributions, according to CRP.

James Oberstar $153,600
John Kline $129,174
Betty McCollum $20,650
Collin Peterson $15,500
Tim Walz $9,000
Amy Klobuchar $6,350
Michele Bachmann $4,100
Keith Ellison $2,350
Erik Paulsen $1,250

Earlier this month, the House voted on a call for an ethics investigation into the relationship between PMA and the most powerful members of Congress. It was defeated along a mostly party-line vote. Rep. Tim Walz was the only DFLer in the Minnesota delegation to support the probe, by objecting to a motion to table it.

  • dfhjr586

    Hmmm. You tie Oberstar and Kline (primarily) to PMA. Would you mind including what earmarks are attributed to each? I believe Kline had 0 earmarks and has stated he won’t have any. How about Oberstar?

    So, what is your point?

  • Ollie Ox

    Thanks for the hat tip.

    However, isn’t “ensnaring” somewhat overblown rhetoric?

    Can you demonstrate which of the individual contributions from employees of PMA Group clients to Minnesota’s federal lawmakers are linked with the corruption probe? As you point out, that probe seems more linked to the big honchos at the PMA Group giving money to others to contribute to campaign and leadership PAC committees. This violates federal law.

    The other scandal–which though legal–is the apparent quid-pro-quo of contributions for earmarks. Again, the connection between our lawmakers should be established prior to claims of ensnarement.

    Both instances underscore the need for meaningful reform in the appropriations process. How’s about a civil conservation about that?

    It seems difficult when burdened by loaded language. While the Star Tribune used the Taxpayer for Common Sense’s recent report on all earmarks as the basis for an article larded with loaded language like “pork”, the careful reader of Taxpayer s for Common Sense documents will note that the organization never uses that sort of language. At the recent Transparency Camp in DC, a thoughtful employee of the TCS explained to me that the group’s choice of words was deliberate so as to avoid oversimplification of the debate.

    An excellent point,though it seems to have gone over the head of reporters like Kevin Diaz. I hope that MPR will avoid dramatic hyperbole as well. Jeff Rosenberg called for a rational discussion of earmarks at MnPublius recently. Good idea.