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Monday, October 26, 2009

Washingto Favor Factory turns earmarks into campaign cash

The Washington Post examines the close ties between a little-known Congressman, a lobbying firm, and millions in federal money flowing to campaign contributors.
In rapid succession, the three-employee technology firm, NanoSonix, filed its incorporation papers in Skokie, Ill., and hired a Washington lobbying firm, K&L Gates, which boasted to clients of its close relationship with Visclosky. A week later, Visclosky wrote a letter of support for a $2.4 million earmark for NanoSonix from the House Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee.

"I understand how this can look from the outside," NanoSonix chief executive Sean Murdock said in an interview, describing his company's rush to get research funding to develop night-vision goggles. "My belief was we had to pursue government funding if this technology was going to see the light of day."

Murdock's company was not the only one to find a winning formula in pursuit of federal earmarks through Visclosky. The congressman sponsored or supported at least $44 million in earmarks in fiscal years 2008 and 2009 for more than 15 technology firms that had hired K&L Gates as lobbyists. None of the companies operated in Visclosky's home state, but nearly all of them donated to Visclosky's campaign just before or soon after receiving the promise of federal money.
The Post reports that federal investigators are also looking into K&L Gates efforts to market itself with its close ties to Visclosky and whether a campaign aide solicited campaign contributions with the promise of federal funding.

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