WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, whose name surfaced his week as part of a House ethics inquiry, said Friday that he had little contact with the defense contractor lobbying firm at the center of the investigation and expressed confidence he was cleared in the matter.
The Indian Shores Republican was named in a confidential report obtained by the Washington Post that showed seven members of the defense appropriations subcommittee were questioned about ties to PMA Group, a now-defunct firm that has been under criminal investigation by the Justice Department.
Young said he has met with the Office of Congressional Ethics, which makes recommendations to the House Ethics Committee, and provided information about "earmark" funding requests for PMA clients and campaign contributions the he received from the firm and its clients.
"We provided everything they asked for," Young said. "Everything is straightforward and in public. There's nothing that we told them that they couldn't have found out for themselves by just going to the record."
Young was asked about six PMA clients but said only three got money through him: Concurrent Technologies Corp. in Largo, AAR Corp. in Clearwater and CodaOctopus in St. Pete Beach. The awards total $8.4 million.
Now in his 40th year in Congress, Young is unashamed about his defense earmarks — in the proposed 2010 budget he is seeking at least $80 million — and said they go toward Tampa Bay companies that provide jobs and supply an important service.
But his actions have drawn scrutiny over the years, including money he steered to companies that employed his two sons.
While PMA's troubles have been well known, the lawmaker most closely associated with the investigation is Democrat John Murtha of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Defense. Paul Magliocchetti, the founder of PMA, was a longtime staffer on the subcommittee.
Pulling in Young and other lawmakers shows how deep PMA's reach may be, said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, which tracks defense spending. "It increases the pressure on them to come out with something at the end of the day," Ellis said.
According to a campaign finance database complied by Opensecrets.org, Young has received $460,000 from PMA and its clients over the years.
But Young's office said Friday that number is distorted since it includes companies for which PMA did specific work, but Young was not involved with that aspect of the companies.
Young's office said the House investigation focused on the past three years and during that time, he got $2,500 in 2008 from the PMA political action committee and about $3,000 from individual employees of Concurrent Technologies. He had received more than that in previous years, however.