One of the issues that Brian Moran has been highlighting in his race for DPVA Chairman is his "fundraising ability". And no one will argue that money for a political party is critical in executing all of the programs that need to happen in order to be successful.
But where does Brian's money come from- and what will that mean for Democrats who receive it?
In his 2009 primary for Governor, Brian raised a total amount of $4,075,343 according to VPAP. This put him slightly ahead of Creigh Deeds who spent $3,487,613 but well behind Terry McAuliffe who spent $8,299,632. While there is very little history in recent Governor primaries to compare this to in Virginia, I think we can fairly judge Brian's fundraising as fine- not overwhelming, but probably about what a major candidate for Governor from a wealthy urban area could expect.
What is much more troubling is where Brian's money came from. Around half of his total $4,000,000 take came from people with business before his brother's defense appropriations committee in Congress. In fairness to Brian, some of these donors have been around in Virginia politics for a while, and the defense industry is certainly a big player in the economy of Virginia. However, many of these donors supported Brian much more generously than they had ever supported any other candidate for office before.
One such donor is George Pederson, a leader in the defense industry community. In this election for Governor he gave Moran $100,000- far larger than any other contribution he made to any other candidate in recent years. After Moran lost the primary, he flipped to Bob McDonnell and gave McDonnell about half of what he donated to Moran in the general election.
Another example is John Braun. John has supported many local Democrats with small, but generous donations- but with Brian stepped up his donations in a major way, steering him over half of his total donations. In total, Brian received over $100,000 from a donor in the defense industry who otherwise donates in much smaller sums.
On and on the list goes. It's very clear the defense industry was more interested in Brian's campaign for Governor then they have ever been before on any state level race in Virginia. Why was that? Did Brian campaign on any issues that would benefit the defense industry that he could implement as Governor? Not that I can find any record of. There's no question these donors were more interested in Moran because of who his brother was and the position he held on the defense appropriations subcommittee.
But if there was any question left on why these donors were flooding Brian Moran with money, it was eliminated earlier this year in federal court.
The gentlemen we listed above (Pederson and Braun) both were noticed because they gave large amounts to Moran directly- since Virginia has no campaign finance laws that limit donations that is completely legal. It's also the most ethical way to contribute large amounts and allow the public to see where money is coming from. Other donors who want to avoid this scrutiny "bundle" their contributions from multiple individuals and companies so their totals are not as obvious to the public. The best known of these bundlers is the PMA Group.
As I covered earlier this year PMA is the largest donor to Jim Moran's Congressional campaigns in the last 10 years. PMA also donated to Brian's campaign for Governor, but the donations came from PMA's corporate account, individuals who worked there or were related to employees there, and their clients corporate accounts. I went through over the last day and looked at every donor to Brian Moran since 2005- and found that almost $129,000 could be easily traced back to the PMA group.
But all of that ended when the PMA Group was raided by the FBI in late 2008.
Here's what I wrote about this in regards to Brian's brother earlier this year:
"In order to understand what happens next, we need to go back in time again. Back to 2000 when Moran was a few years into his second Chief of Staff Paul Reagan. Nowadays Paul is the Chief of Staff to Senator Jim Webb. Paul decided to go outside the office to hire Melissa Koloszar to be Moran's Legislative Director. A little more than a year later Mark Warner was elected Governor of Virginia and Paul went to Richmond to work for Mark opening up Jim's Chief of Staff position for only the second time in the decade since Jim was first elected. Melissa was promoted into the position that January as Paul left for Richmond.
As you can see on Legistorm, once Melissa became Chief of Staff she was moved off of Moran's office payroll and onto the House Appropriations Committee payroll. This is a frequent occurrence on the Hill for members of the Appropriations Committee who all get extra staff members to help with that committee work. Many of those members choose to pay their Chief of Staffs through the Committee since the committee salary is large and most Appropriations Committee members want senior staff handling that work. After spending three years in that position helping Jim prepare his earmarks for defense contractors , Melissa found "greener" pastures and headed out to be the Vice President of a lobbying shop by the name of PMA.
I've interviewed a number of people familiar with legislative staff that moves into the lobbying industry with experience in the range of Melissa's. With the exception of some very special cases (for example a close aide to the Speaker, Majority Leader or other very senior legislative leader), a staffer moving into the lobbying industry can expect to get a pay boost of no more than double what they are getting on the Hill. In most cases, someone like Melissa who was making about $120,000 a year when she left the Hill is going to start in the $150,000-$175,000 range on K Street. Let me explain why this is important.
After she left the Hill, having donated virtually nothing in politics as a Chief of Staff, Melissa suddenly donated $38,565 in the 2006 cycle. Let's assume for a minute that Melissa started on the high end for salary after leaving the Hill and was making $175,000 right away. After taxes she might have taken home $80,000 of her $120,000 salary on the Hill- and after taxes, she probably took home about $115,000 of her $175,000 salary as a lobbyist. That means her take home pay that she could spend on anything she wanted probably only increased about $35,000 a year during this time period. Yet Melissa found $38,565 to suddenly donate to federal campaigns this cycle.
Why do we care what Melissa's take home pay was? Following the FBI raid of the PMA group, the charges brought against Paul Magliocchetti were that he illegally reimbursed family and employees of the PMA group in order to make political donations. In federal campaigns reimbursements are illegal because of the donor limits- obviously there would be no reason to limit the amount of money any donor could give if they could reimburse others to continue donating.
Those charges are why I noted the dates and amounts of the donations from Magliocchetti and his immediate family above. So when Melissa made her first contribution to Moran after leaving his office and joining PMA, what was it?
$2,000 on June 6th, 2006- the same day and same amount that Magliocchetti's family was all donating to Moran. In fact- almost all of Melissa's largest donations to candidates were matching information with the Magliocchetti family.
With just a little pressure and one federal charge against him, Mark Magliocchetti squealed on his father in August of this year- admitting his contributions had been made illegally.
With the already clear evidence mounting Paul Magliocchetti pleaded guilty to the charges against him last Friday. As Politico reported "Magliocchetti admitted to using his in-laws and children to funnel donations to lawmakers beginning in 2003. In 2005, he began using employees of his lobbying firm to move campaign cash to members of Congress."
If you read this far already you are probably thinking "that was obvious". But what about Melissa?
The feds decided not to charge the people making these illegal contributions with the exception of Magliochetti's son who they charged with one count in order to get him to testify against his father. I'm assuming this was a resource decision made at the Department of Justice as they would have had to charge almost 20 family members and associates.
So Melissa, who we can assume from the plea agreement participated in a scheme with her employer to funnel illegal contributions to her former boss Congressman Moran (among others) gets to go free and avoids any jail time.
So what is she up to now? Maybe a well deserved second career after this one turned out so badly? Nope. After the raid of the PMA Group Melissa formed her own lobbying group that included clients that PMA had been handling- and is continuing to seek and receive federal earmarks for her clients from Congressman Moran! Repeat- she is continuing to do the exact same thing for the exact same clients- under a new firm she created!
Last week, I called Melissa for comment on this- and she hung up the phone on me. Apparently transparency isn't her thing.
Here's the summary of all of this. When hauled into court, PMA had to admit the obvious. Their political donations were meant to influence members of Congress. When they bundled more money than any other donor to Brian Moran- it wasn't because they "liked" him or "knew" him or even because they cared about the Commonwealth of Virginia. They were donating in order to gain favor with his brother who oversaw their earmarks on a key Congressional committee.
So yes, it's true that Brian Moran has access to a lot of money as a fundraiser. The more appropriate question should be- is this kind of "wink wink" quid pro quo the way we want to see the Democratic Party funded? How much will this hurt our future candidates as party donors are slowly lead away in handcuffs to federal prison the way Brian's #1 donor already has been?
In five days, barring a major upset, we may begin to find out.