June 2, 2009

Rep. Visclosky Should Relinquish His Leadership Post Until Cleared From the PMA Scandal

Statement of Craig Holman, Government Affairs Lobbyist for Public Citizen

Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.) made the right move today in stepping back from handling key legislation before his subcommittee while investigators probe his involvement with the now-defunct PMA Group. Visclosky’s ties to PMA Group – a lobbying firm under federal investigation for an alleged contributions-for-earmarks scheme – run uncomfortably deep. He has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from PMA Group employees and has been responsible for helping direct tens of millions of dollars worth of special spending projects to PMA clients. This relationship, coupled with the fact that Visclosky’s former chief of staff helped run the lobbying firm, has rightly drawn close scrutiny from the Department of Justice, resulting in subpoenas of both Visclosky’s congressional and campaign offices in an ongoing criminal investigation of the PMA Group.

While Visclosky is correctly stepping back from handling key legislation in his appropriations subcommittee, the House Energy and Water subcommittee, he should take the further step of relinquishing his chairmanship of the subcommittee until the Department of Justice has finished its investigation. Even though congressional rules do not require that he relinquish leadership unless indicted, the cloud around Visclosky is plenty dark. Remaining in a leadership position during the investigation is very likely to cause the public to worry that the best legislative decisions are not being made.