A federal judge in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website] on Friday sentenced Paul Magliocchetti, founder of the now-defunct political lobbying firm PMA Group, to 27 months imprisonment [press release] for his involvement in campaign finance [JURIST news archive] improprieties spanning over five years. Magliocchetti was indicted [press release] in August and the following month pleaded guilty to charges of making illegal conduit and corporate contributions and making false statements. Between 2003 and 2008, Magliocchetti circumvented campaign finance regulations governing individual and corporate contributions by instructing friends, family and associates to make personal donations to specified candidates and reimbursing their expenses. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] contends that Magliocchetti funneled over $1 million to campaigns and political action committees in this manner, though Magliocchetti's confession admits to only $386,000 [Washington Post report]. In addition to confinement, US District Judge T.S. Ellis III also sentenced Magliocchetti to two years supervised release and ordered him to pay a fine of $75,000.
DOJ officials described Magliocchetti's collective activities as one of the largest campaign finance crimes in history, though stressed that the recipients were unaware of the funds' improper nature. Because of cases like Magliocchetti, pressure on politicians to be aware of where their campaign contributions come from has increased in recent years. In September 2009, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] upheld [JURIST report] the constitutionality of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 (HLOGA) [text, PDF], a law passed [JURIST report] in 2007 that requires members of Congress to disclose more information about their fund-raising efforts and gifts they receive from lobbyists. The Obama administration has also tried to reduce the amount of contact between lobbyists and officials in the administration. In April 2009, leaders of several lobbying groups asked [JURIST report] the administration to eliminate or change restrictions it has put on contact that lobbyists can have with administration officials concerning American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 [text, PDF; official website] projects. Earlier that month, JURIST guest columnist William Luneburg [faculty profile] criticized constitutional arguments [JURIST op-ed] made by the lobbyist groups, arguing that the restrictions were needed to limit the disproportionate power of such groups.