Two things are becoming apparent in Indiana’s Lake County Congressional district: (1) that Peter Visclosky (D-IN) is hip-deep in the muck of congressional sludge with Pennsylvania’s Murtha. and (2) it looks like we’ve found the multi-million dollar funding source that’s allowed this very blue congressman to stay in his seat in a very red state — and it didn’t come from his constituents:
It’s too early to tell where federal investigators will take their probe of U.S. Rep. Peter Visclosky and his top campaign donor, The PMA Group, but the congressman has already cut off at least 20 private, for-profit companies from his political clout.
Those companies, whose employees and political action committees donated at least $684,000 to Visclosky’s campaigns, landed about $45.3 million in congressional earmarks secured by the congressman in fiscal years 2008 and 2009, records show.
Visclosky pledged earlier this year not to seek further earmarks cash for for-profit ventures. He made the promise after news broke of an FBI raid at the offices of The PMA Group. The defunct Virginia lobbying firm’s employees gave at least $290,500 to Visclosky’s campaigns and political action committee, and Visclosky’s congressional and campaign offices have been subpoenaed.
Nearly three-quarters of the for-profit companies that accepted earmarks money from Visclosky in 2008 and 2009 had ties to PMA. Still others on that list are smaller ventures based in Northwest Indiana with no connection to the firm.
Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, said the Merrillville Democrat is moving in the right direction by cutting off private companies from his earmarks wish-list. “Congressman Visclosky appears to be recognizing the gravity of the situation,” Ellis said.
Most of the companies that landed earmarks dollars from Visclosky in 2008 and 2009 didn’t return calls from the Post-Tribune.
Seven have offices in Indiana, and five of those appear on a list of former PMA clients. The rest are spread out across the country, from Kingstown, R.I., to San Diego, Calif. Their specialties range from military vehicles to cybersecurity to vaccine development to nuclear energy.
No company took in more earmarks money from Visclosky in 2008 and 2009, records show, than NuVant Systems, which accepted $4.9 million. Advanced Concepts and Technologies International LLC, and 21st Century Systems Inc., each took in $4.4 million from defense spending bills. All three have worked with PMA, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Records show the money accepted by Texas-based Advanced Concepts, a military management firm, was meant for a “photo catalytic oxidation demonstration for water reuse.”
NuVant’s money was meant for a “direct methanol fuel cell – battery recharger program,” according to the records. The cash for 21st Century Systems, which specializes in computer data systems, was used for “intelligent distributed command and control.”
Sierra Nevada Corp., which now lists a location in Fort Wayne, once had offices at the Purdue complex. Sierra collected $2 million in defense spending in 2008 for “U.S. Army Future Force ELINT.” The firm specializes in “providing high technology electronics, avionics and communications systems,” according to its Web site.
Ritvo added that Visclosky’s key committee assignments also mean he must sometimes decide to fund projects that are in the best interest of the entire nation.
“The ultimate deciding factor is whether it’s the right thing to do,” Ritvo said.
And the calls continue to accumulate that the “right thing to do” would be to resign his committee chairmanship until this matter is resolved.
Not that Viscolsky’s doing THAT, either. talking and doing are so frequently two different things in Washington. however, it will be interesting to see what the voters of Lake County think in 2010.