Is the Law Finally Closing in on John Murtha?

In 2005, Newsbusters detailed some of the Murtha deals in his district (which probably deserves the title"Porkapolis") then public:

  • Roll Call's Mary Jacoby observed that "Of the approximately $4 billion in ‘directed spending' contained in the $240 billion fiscal 1994 defense appropriations bill, more than $11 million is earmarked for projects in Murtha's district." Of this, $103 million went to "a non-profit research" company in his district known as Concurrent Technologies Company (CTC), "a subsidiary of the University of Pittsburgh Trust".
  • Jacoby's report continued breaking down the CTC earmark -- "$30 million was for the National Defense Center for Environmental Excellence [ed:whatever that is]. Forty million dollars for the National Center for Excellence in Manufacturing Technology, $10 million for the National Applied Software Engineering Center, and $23 million for the Computer-Aided Acquisition and Logistics Support (CALS_ Shared Resource Center (SRC)."
  • His behavior so outraged fellow House Democrat George Brown, chairman of the Science Space and technology Committee who felt that these earmarks bypassed normal competitive peer review processes, that Congressman Tom Foley had to intervene when Brown demanded to know the details of how these earmarked billions were being spent and request the Defense Department to release the documents related to these earmarks.

But as Newsbusters reports, the earmarks by Murtha to Porkopolis continued unabated. Notably in 1998, the Pentagon made clear that there were $4 billion in projects which it had never asked for, and when the Pentagon complaint drew the attention of the Washington Post, it focused a great deal of attention on Murtha again.

The paper reported, inter alia:

In the House version of the fiscal 1999 defense appropriations bill, Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) has inserted $ 25 million in funding for DRS Laurel Technologies in Johnstown, his hometown. He inserted another $ 25 million or so in classified funds for a Johnstown drug intelligence center and millions more for a Johnstown research group studying ‘environmental excellence' and other issues.

[Snip]

In six years, stoked by Murtha's clout as the ranking Democrat on the House defense appropriations subcommittee, DRS Laurel's annual revenue has ballooned from $ 3 million to $ 70 million and its work force has grown from 45 to 260. Jack Donnelly, the president of DRS Laurel Technologies, credits Murtha "100 percent for opening the door" to lucrative Pentagon business.

Perhaps because they approved of Murtha's anti-Iraq war stance, reporting on the king of pork's earmarks tapered off somewhat. That is until last month when it was reported that the FBI, IRS, and Defense Criminal Investigative Service had searched  two Porkapolis businesses and the homes of the firms' founder, Kuchera Industries and Kuchera Defense Systems, which had reportedly received  "over $100 million in earmarks, thanks to Murtha's efforts."

This month, another firm with close ties to Murtha was also searched by the FBI. PMA group is headed by Paul Magliochetti, a former Murtha aide. (Another former aide, Julie Giardina, is also employed by the firm.)  According to the ABC report, the firm and Murtha have very close links indeed.

The PMA Group has benefited mightily from its ties to Murtha. In 2008, it brought in $13.8 million in revenue representing dozens of defense companies and contractors, many of which have donated heavily to Murtha. The veteran Pennsylvania Democrat has helped the firm secure millions in federal earmark dollars. Indeed, in 2008, PMA clients won $299 million in earmarks, according to figures compiled by Taxpayers for Common Sense.

While the firm represents some defense giants like Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, a large portion of their business comes from small defense firms headquartered in and around Murtha's district.

Today, the New York Times reports that the investigation has widened to contributions by PMA to Murtha and two other of his Democratic colleagues and allies on the Appropriations Committee:

In the first half of 2007, the PMA Group and its clients contributed more than $500,000 to three congressmen, Mr. Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who is chairman of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, and his close allies on the panel, Representative James P. Moran of Virginia and Representative Peter J. Visclosky of Indiana.

The lawmakers, meanwhile, earmarked more than $100 million in defense spending for PMA clients in the appropriations bills for 2008, according to a study by Taxpayers for Common Sense, which tracks earmarks.

In the last two weeks before the 2008 election, Mr. Murtha went on a last-minute fund-raising blitz, and PMA executives and clients gave him more than $100,000, according to a tally by the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call.

[snip]

Experts in political law said the lawmakers could be required to return the improper contributions or, if they had turned a blind eye to fraud, they could be in legal trouble.

It is hard to see how any party that truly cared about the readiness of the military, the well being of the troops, or the national defense (not to mention the importance of curtailing wasteful government spending) could keep this man as head of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. He has wasted so much money on foolish projects unwanted by the Pentagon, enriched himself in the process, and slandered the troops when it suits him. Whatever the case with the ongoing FBI investigations of firms intertwined with this man, retaining him in this important position sends an unmistakably odorous message about the Democrats' utter lack of concern for the troops and national security.