The recent indictment of onetime Democratic Washington “power player” Paul Magliocchetti may not have gotten the press attention that surrounded the downfall and eventual incarceration of Republican “super lobbyist” Jack Abramoff in 2006. But rest assured: given the wide range of Democrats that were touched by the former aide to the late Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) and his now-defunct PMA Group lobbying firm, there is a strong case to be made that, as the 2010 elections grow closer, Paul Magliocchetti will be as much a poster child for corruption in the Democratic-ruled Congress as Jack Abramoff was for corruption in the Congress under Republican control.
You know the rest of the story. As Abramoff was being sentenced to six years in prison for a fraudulent Florida casino deal in ’06 and later sentenced separately to four years for defrauding the U.S. in ’08, Democrats ranging from first-time House candidates to George Clooney (who cracked jokes about Abramoff during the Oscar ceremony) made the onetime GOP power broker a national symbol of corruption.
Follow the Money
At this point, there are few details about the extent of Magliocchetti’s corrupting influence and news readers are just now grappling with the pronunciation of his name (“MAG-LEE-O-CHET-TEA’). Official records of the Federal Election Commission show that Magliochetti personally donated to only three House Members (all Democrats) in the ’07-’08 election cycle, to two House Members in ’05-06, and to one lawmaker and to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in ’03-‘04.
But the charges against Magliocchetti in federal court center around making hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions. That immediately suggests that there was a lot more money “laundered,” “washed,” or “spread under the table” to lawmakers by the Democratic lobbyist who once represented major defense clients.
Even before Magliocchetti’s indictment a week ago, federal law enforcement officials subpoenaed the congressional and campaign offices of Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.), whose former chief of staff Rich Kaelin worked for the PMA Group until it shut down.
And it also strongly suggests that a lot of Democratic lawmakers will have some sleepless nights between now and November worrying whether their name will come up in Magliochetti’s upcoming trial in federal court. Several Republican House Members who accepted gratuities from Abramoff and his company—say, an evening in a skybox at the DC Convention Center or complimentary dinners at Abramoff’s Signatures Restaurant—were unseated in ’06 and ’08. This was the situation involving Reps. J.D. Hayworth (Ariz.) and Richard Pombo (CA)—an “Abramoff connection”—and they were beaten in ’06 and ’08 respectively. Neither were ever charged with a crime.
Picking Up the Tab
Just as Abramoff wined, dined, and picked up the check at the Washington restaurant he owned, Magliocchetti routinely presided over a large table of Members of Congress and their staffs at the Alpine Restaurant across the Potomac River. As the New York Times noted, “For most of the last three decades, the lobbyist Paul Magliocchetti might have been mistaken for an owner of the Alpine. . . “
In illustrating what it called Magliocchetti’s “impresario act,” the Times reported his habits of “pulling bottles from the private wine locker labeled ‘Mags’ to entertain lawmakers at the clubby Capital Grille steakhouse, sending gift baskets or wine to lawmakers and their aides, or leasing each of his lobbyists a Lexus.”
In its last poll of whether voters nationwide felt Democrats in Congress were ethical or unethical, CNN found that 47% of the electorate felt they were ethical and 49% felt they were unethical. That was in March. (The same survey in the month before Democrats took over Congress found that only 34% found Democrats in Congress unethical and 54% found them ethical).
Clearly, as more attention is focused on Paul Magliocchetti and just who he generated campaign money to and who he wined and dined, these numbers are likely to change. And as for pronouncing his name, it might be easier for one to say: “He’s the Democratic Abramoff.”