Skip to comments.Did Murtha Say What He Meant?
Posted on 03/30/2009 9:28:35 PM PDT by smoothsailing
CQ TODAY ONLINE NEWS
March 31, 2009 12:02 a.m.
Did Murtha Say What He Meant?
By Bill Pascoe, CQ Guest Columnist
If Im corrupt, its because I take care of my district.
So said Rep. John P. Murtha , D-Pa., in a weekend interview with a home-state newspaper. What he was trying to convey was that the only thing his critics can complain about is his success in directing federal dollars to his district if taking care of his district is a bad thing, well, then, hes all for bad things.
Its a classic example of setting up a straw man.
Murthas critics arent opposed to his ability to bring home the bacon; as the chairman, and then ranking member, and then chairman again of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee for the last two decades, Murthas control over the Pentagons purse strings is legendary, and the torrent of cash he has directed back to his 12th District makes the Johnstown Flood look like a spring drizzle.
His critics dont begrudge him his pork. But they are questioning how close he has come to the line of ethical propriety.
And its fair to ask whether Murtha remembers any of the lessons he learned during that big of unpleasantness known as Abscam.
In the fall and winter of 1979-80, FBI agents posing as Arab sheiks tried to lure corrupt members of Congress into accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for helping the faux sheiks get around U.S. immigration laws. The Arab Scam Abscam led to the convictions of five members of the House and one senator.
For his role, Murtha was given the same ignominious label attached to Richard M. Nixon in the Watergate scandal: unindicted co-conspirator.
Murtha refused to personally reach into a desk drawer and remove $50,000 cash, and insisted instead that a middleman take possession of the booty. When the FBI agent refused to agree to that arrangement, they agreed to meet again (at which point, the FBI agent hoped, Murtha would feel comfortable enough to take the cash himself). But before that second meeting could take place, the news media exposed the FBI sting operation, and Murtha agreed to testify against his congressional colleagues. After his testimony helped secure convictions, the Justice Department announced that Murtha would face no charges himself.
Granted, that was almost 30 years ago. Certainly, its possible that Murtha learned his lesson.
Murthas current headache is an FBI investigation into The PMA Group, a defunct lobbying behemoth headed by a former Appropriations Committee staffer named Paul Magliocchetti Mags, as his wine locker at the Capital Grille restaurant identifies him. In recent months, FBI agents have raided PMA Group offices, carting off boxes of evidence.
Given that PMA was ranked last year as one of the largest lobbying firms in Washington, and given its track record in both political giving and in getting earmarks, the FBIs decision to investigate is not to be taken lightly.
If the investigation is going after any members of Congress, it will not be enough merely to prove the existence of a campaign contribution from a lobbying firm client, or even from a lobbyist, that took place right around the time of a given legislative action.
That may raise eyebrows, but its perfectly legal.
No, the Justice Department would have to prove that a particular contribution was given and accepted with the understanding by both parties that the contribution was made in exchange for a particular legislative action.
In most such cases, thats a heavy lift. And thats the reason that no matter what critics of earmarking and campaign fundraising practices have to say, its very rare to see those complaints turn into criminal cases.
Which leads to Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake , a Republican pushing to change the rules of the House.
Define financial interest to include campaign contributions, so that members requesting earmarks would be required to declare that not only do they not have a direct financial stake in any earmarked appropriation they seek, but also that they are not accepting campaign contributions from those lobbyists or lobbyists clients associated with that particular earmark.
To a newer generation of congressmen, this may seem perfectly reasonable.
The ranks of Republicans depleted by the electoral disasters of 2006 and 2008, caused, at least in part, by their own tolerance for corruption among their allies may feel similarly amenable.
But since theyre not in charge, the real question is how the Democrats feel about corruption and the intersection of earmarks and campaign money.
Do they share Murthas view? Will the straw man stand? Or will it get blown over by the PMA investigation?
Bill Pascoe is CEO of The Foundation for American Freedom a conservative think tank headquartered in Alexandria, Va.
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Murtha’s involvement in the whole “ABSCAM” scandal should have been more than enough proof to oust this criminal years ago.
Agreed. It would have saved alot of people alot of grief. I believe at the time, he was being protected by Tip O’Neil.
So he admits to what we already knew.
In other words, the end justifies the means. Like Germany and the “Final Solution”.
This might be the only time Murtha got it right and told the truth. Love how even if Democrats take blame, they still have to place blame on others. Democrat cowards all through and through who have to take others down with them. Spiteful little beings all of them.
I believe the lesson Murtha learned from that was to be more careful on the way to go about benefitting from graft. He has learned just how far he can go and how to avoid being directly connected to illegal activity.
In the years since abscam he's gotten more arrogant as the years have passed. Lets hope he got careless on dealings with PMA the last few years thinking he was too good to get nailed, it will be only too good to see him in a federal prison.
Oswald? Does this convince you or do you need to see more?