Rep. Murtha Exposed as Political Crook

By Pat Shannan

The exposure last month of FBI records showed more Washington scandals that went unnoticed and unprosecuted. Always a subject of these whispers, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) was finally implicated in various cases of conspiring with lobbyists in schemes to funnel earmarks to sham companies that benefited his friends and former staffers. Considering that he died in Feb. 2010, it’s safe to say that Murtha beat the rap again.

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An ex-Marine and the first Vietnam vet elected to Congress, Murtha had been dodging Department of Justice (DoJ) bullets since becoming a target of the famous Abscam investigation 30 years earlier. He obviously dodged the ricocheting political bullets here as well, winning reelection a total of 17 times since 1969. A liberal Democrat, he supported Hilary Clinton for president in 2008.

The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), who had listed Murtha as one of its “20 most corrupt members of Congress,” said the probe was never leaked precisely because Murtha was alive and had a right to privacy. Murtha’s death did away with any presumed privacy right, and the DoJ handed over the heavily redacted files to CREW last month.

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One of Murtha’s suspected affiliations was to a group known as Pennsylvania Association for Individuals with Disability—PAID—supposedly with a mission of helping people with disabilities find employment. Staffed with mostly Murtha associates, it mysteriously and quietly closed its doors after nearly a decade in Feb. 2010, the same month Murtha died.

Reporter Paul Singer says Roll Call investigated PAID in 2007 and could find little evidence that the group was doing anything except making money disappear. FBI files uncovered by CREW suggest many other possible acts of malfeasance by Murtha and his cronies, including making large payments to staff members and steering earmarks and contracts to their families. This would include $8.2 million by a lobbyist group represented by the congressman’s brother, untold thousands being funneled to a female office staffer, and the purchase of personal items from campaign funds.