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September 22, 2006
New Boss, Same As The Old Boss?

When the Democrats had more confidence about winning control of the House, they openly discussed committee leadership positions in the new power structure. One of the most important chairs, Appropriations, would move from Jerry Lewis (R-CA) to John Murtha (D-PA), who also covets the Majority Leader position. Lewis is currently under FBI investigation for his dealings with lobbyists, and the Democrats wanted to make an argument regarding corruption as a reason to put people like Murtha in charge. However, Paul at TPM Muckraker demonstrates that the new boss would be much the same as the old boss:

Lewis had former aides Jeffrey Shockey and Letitia White lobbying out of the D.C. firm Copeland Lowery, run by Lewis pal Bill Lowery. The firm's clients showered Lewis with donations, and he showered them right back with millions in contracts.

Murtha has aides in at least two firms.

Paul Magliochetti, a ten-year appropriations staffer with Murtha, now runs the defense lobby powerhouse PMA Consulting. At least one other former Murtha aide, Julie Giardina, also works at PMA. Even at a time of heightened scrutiny, the firm wins millions in defense earmarks for their clients, and those firms are regularly among Murtha's top campaign donors.

In 2006, for instance, five of Murtha's top 10 contributing companies were PMA and its clients. That year, PMA won over $95 million in earmarks for its clients, at least in part with Murtha's help.

Carmen Scialabba, a 27-year veteran of Murtha's staff, is now a lobbyist winning defense appropriations for clients with KSA Consulting. And alongside him at KSA is Robert "Kit" Murtha, the congressman's brother. (The firm's web site does not list him as an employee -- but a Google search returns his profile still active on the site, and a call to KSA's office confirmed he is still connected to the organization.)

Together, they have roped in clients looking for defense earmarks, bringing in contributions to Murtha and hauling out taxpayer dollars with Murtha's assistance -- over $20 million in 2005.

This would not be Murtha's first time in the corruption spotlight. The FBI targeted Murtha in its Abscam probe almost 30 years ago, but Murtha didn't bite -- much. He turned down the suitcase full of cash, which was more than some of his colleagues managed to do, but he then attempted to get the "sheikh" to invest in his home district, apparently not concerned with the ethics of the attempted bribery, and not necessarily rejecting them for himself in the long run:

Congressman Jack Murtha (D-PA) was indicted but not prosecuted because he gave evidence against Murphy and Thompson. The FBI videotaped Murtha as saying, "I'm not interested. I'm sorry... at this point.", a Division of the conservative Media Research Center, reports the full FBI video reveals Murtha later stating on the tape, "You know, we do business for a while, maybe I'll be interested, maybe I won't."

Murtha has never been shown to have taken a bribe, unlike Randy "Duke" Cunningham. However, as Paul reports, his relationship with lobbyists and their connections through his aides look very similiar to the types of relationships that have Lewis in hot water -- and the end result is that millions in government contracts flow from earmarks by both men into the pockets of contributors and connected contractors.

Read all of Paul's post.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 22, 2006 5:03 AM

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