BUSINESS
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Rep. Visclosky Under Fire For Close Ties To Lobbying Firm

The Washington Post examines the overnight success story of tech firm NanoSonix -- an upstart Illinois-based company that has seemingly benefited from its close ties to Rep. Peter Visclosky, a Democrat from Indiana.

Now investigators are focusing in on possible links between Visclosky's earmarks and his staff's campaign fundraising efforts.

Visclosky, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee, backed a $2.4 million earmark for NanoSonix to develop a brand of night vision goggles shortly after the three-employee firm hired a Washington lobbyist and filed its incorporated papers, according to the Post.

"I understand how this can look from the outside," NanoSonix chief executive Sean Murdock said. "My belief was we had to pursue government funding if this technology was going to see the light of day."

The congressman signed off on at least $44 million in earmarks in 2008 and 2009 for 15 tech firms hired by the K&L Gates firm, the same lobbyists representing NanoSonix.

From the Post:

A Post review shows that K&L Gates clients winning Visclosky's support, along with their lobbyists and investors, donated almost $200,000 to Visclosky and an additional $130,000 to the House Democratic campaign committee since 2005. The donations often came in clusters, around the time Visclosky's committee was crafting its annual earmarks ...

The New York Times reported earlier this year that federal law enforcements officials who raided PMA Group's offices were examining the firm's relationship with Visclosky.

Prosecutors ordered the raid based on suspicions that the firm illegally funneled out money to circumvent campaign finance laws. Visclosky was reportedly one of the lawmakers closest with PMA before it folded, and he relied heavily on the firm for campaign fundraising and earmarked millions each year to its clients.