Monday, April 6, 2009

John Murtha's Culture of Corruption

It was the Abscam scandal around 1980 when was named an “un-indicted conspirator” that I first heard of John Murtha. I guess he wasn’t indicted because it appeared to me that he was still negotiating with the Arabs while the other congress crooks took the cash and got caught on film. It probably helped that he testified against two of his colleagues. Tip O’neal, the Speaker at the time, made the Ethics Committee drop the case. The prosecutor resigned in protest. See the FBI video of Murtha:

A member of the Pennsylvania legislature from 1969 to 1974, Murtha has been in the US congress ever since. He actually started out in life very well -- became an Eagle Scout as a youth, then joined the Marines in 1952 at age 20 and stayed in the Reserves after leaving active duty in 1955. He went on to college on the G.I. Bill and ran a car wash for a while until he volunteered for duty in Vietnam 1966-67 where he received the Distinguished Service Medal. It has been downhill since then.

As an ex-marine with honors, his shameful attack on fellow Marines regarding the Haditha incident in Iraq was shocking. Responding to a magazine article which reported that US Marines may be charged with killing civilians, Murtha said, “"It's much worse than reported in Time magazine. There was no fire fight. There was no IED that killed these innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood. And that's what the report is going to tell." That was not what the report told and the accused Maries were acquitted. At least one of the Marines that Murtha defamed tried to sue him but the members protect themselves with laws that don’t apply to their subjects. On March 5, 2009 Congressman John Murtha was awarded the Department of the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award by the Secretary of the Navy. He deserved no such award! There is a petition being circulated at to tell the Navy why they should rescind this insult to the truly loyal US Navy volunteers. Of course, it is highly doubtful that Murtha would have received any such award were he not a powerful politician with influence over military appropriations.

This is the military genius who said we could have taken out Zarqawi from Okinawa! Murtha actually said on June 11, 2006, Meet The Press, “We can go to Okinawa. We can redeploy there almost instantly." Yeah, 2400 nautical miles over China and Iran. Brilliant! No wonder he’s called, the Chairman of the Cowardice Committee by some Marines, et al.

"If I'm corrupt, it's because I take care of my district," Mr. Murtha said. "My job as a member of Congress is to make sure that we take care of what we see is necessary…” Necessary to get reelected, that is. As head of the Defense Spending Committee he has the power to steer hundreds of millions of tax dollars in earmarks to companies of his choice. The fact that those companies and heir employees contribute enormous amounts to his political campaigns is supposed to go unnoticed.

There is an ongoing FBI investigation of PMA, a huge lobbying group with close ties to Murtha but Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who's a close ally, has, so far, been successful in keeping Repubs and about 18 Dems from opening a congressional investigation. Rep. Jeff Flake, the Arizona Republican anti-pork crusader, is on the case. Flake has offered several resolutions to open an investigation into PMA that would focus on "the relationship between earmark requests already made by members and the source and timing of past campaign contributions." Flake says that this scandal could be bigger than the Abramoff scandal. “Much bigger.” Even the NY Times advised “…Pelosi should listen to the wise Democrats who are pushing for an ethics inquiry into the far-too-cozy relationship between lawmakers and the PMA Group of super-lobbyists.”

The NY Times reported that PMA was led by Paul Magliocchetti, a Murtha protégé and former staffer, who wined and dined his former bosses and comrades with raucous dinners and big expense-account tabs. PMA funneled more than $40 million in donations to members of Congress since 1998, including $2.4 million to Mr. Murtha and $7.8 million to members of his committee. Congress, in turn, rewarded PMA clients with rarely debated earmarks. Last year, the firm was able to marshal more than 100 lawmakers to earmark $300 million in contracts for the lobbyist’s clients.

The FBI also searched the offices and personal homes of executives of Kuchera Industries, a defense contractor based in Murtha’s district. Murtha helped steer tens of millions of dollars in federal contracts to the firm over the past decade, and he threw a $100,000 fundraiser at Bill Kuchera’s ranch last year. A federal grand jury has also subpoenaed records from Concurrent Technologies Corp., a Pennsylvania nonprofit organization created with a Murtha earmark. Federal agents are also looking into a Murtha-backed research firm "Electro Optic Center." According to a source interviewed by the FBI, in one year, the Center sought $120 million in earmarks directly through Murtha's office and managers urged employees to donate to Murtha so the Center would get favorable treatment.

With all this controversy swirling around him, Murtha has remained largely silent except he did flash a pocket-sized copy of the Constitution to a CBS reporter and spat out the words, “"That's the Constitution of the United States. What it says is the Congress of the United States appropriates the money. Got that?" I guess he figures that he is the guy who decides who gets what from the people’s taxes –that is the kind of arrogance and hubris that comes from being in office too long.

The National Taxpayers Union ranks all members equally –no partisanship, they let the numbers fall strictly according to the votes on spending. Murtha gets an ‘F” grade consistently as far back as their history shows at NTU which is to 1992. He’s no friend of the taxpayer.

Murtha has put down his own constituents as “racists” and “rednecks.” Obama said the same thing about the people in small towns in Pennsylvania who he said were, “… bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” Yet the overwhelmingly Democrat district voted for Obama and reelected Murtha for the 19th time. How do they explain that?

Career pols often use their FedGov access by putting family members on the payroll(s) or using their influence to gain an advantage not available to regular citizens. In Murtha’s case, his brother Kit got lobbying jobs and his son John got off easy on a cocaine distribution charge. They –career pols—are like royalty today. No longer do they serve the public; now, they rule us. Only term limits can bring our representatives back to public service from what is now blatantly, self-service. Had John Murtha been term limited in 1980, would our country be better off today? You know my answer.

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