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October 2, 2006
Behold The Power Of Pork

The power of appropriators to shape legislation in all other areas of policy gets amplified through the use of pork-barrel politics, and John Murtha in particular has mastered this technique. The New York Times profiles Murtha and gets him on the record, bragging about his effectiveness in using pork to gain power:

Members have watched with envy as Mr. Murtha has used earmarks to remake Johnstown, Pa., an impoverished former steel town that now includes a Murtha highway, a Murtha airport and Murtha health centers. He has steered billions of dollars to his district over the years, including more than $80 million in the defense spending bill passed Friday, according to a preliminary tally.

Mr. Murtha’s patronage has transformed Johnstown into a national hub of the defense business, attracting giants like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. He even built one contractor from scratch. In 1988, Mr. Murtha asked the chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh to set up a nonprofit that could use Navy money to establish a Center for Excellence in Metalworking in Johnstown.

Since then, Mr. Murtha has delivered earmarks to the organization, now called Concurrent Technologies Corporation, for work like consulting on counterterrorism, designing ejection seats for pilots and developing software. The military and other federal agencies have paid Concurrent nearly a billion dollars in grants and contracts since 1999. In the most recent defense bill, Mr. Murtha inserted $1.3 million for Concurrent to research Army tank designs.

“It is Murtha’s pet rock,” said Stephen Gage, chief executive of an Ohio economic development organization that once worked with Concurrent.

Concurrent’s executives, in turn, have given more than $114,000 to the congressman’s campaigns over the last three elections, making it one of his biggest corporate donors. The organization pays about $500,000 a year to a lobbying firm, the PMA Group, whose executives and clients have given Mr. Murtha more than $1.2 million in donations since 1999.

It goes beyond the remaking of Johnstown, however. The power Murtha exercises affects more than just his own extensive use of earmarking; he uses the earmarks of others to twist arms on all kinds of legislation. Those who follow Murtha's advice on votes will see their earmarks sail through Appropriations, while those who oppose Murtha in either party will see their districts starve for federal funding.

Do you wonder why debate on bills seem to occur in inverse proportion to their cost? At least with defense bills, we can thank John Murtha. In the late 1980s, he created a new process for defense spending. Instead of having the bill go through weeks of debate, Murtha and the ranking Republican would simply lard the bill with so much pork spending that neither side could resist voting for the bill. No one wanted to debate the bill, because no one wanted to reveal the pork spending within it. The Republicans have continued this tradition, which is why the defense appropriation last week for $437 billion only endured 20 minutes of debate.

His power has even helped unseat members of his own party. Allyson Schwartz beat out a fellow Democrat for her seat after the reformer tangled with Murtha over pork-barrel spending. Schwartz learned from her predecessor's experience not to cross Murtha, and he has rewarded her complicity with millions of dollars in earmarks for her district to keep her seat safe. Not all of this largesse that Murtha offers assists in professional security for politicians; some, such as Paul Kanjorski, get earmarks for family. Murtha helped put $9.5 million in earmarks into the pockets of Kanjorski's nephews, who own a business that uses water jets for demolition work, which Kanjorski says is the only firm capable of doing the work.

The New York Times profile provides a clear look at the power and corruption that earmarks create on Capitol Hill. John Murtha should represent his own district in Congress, but thanks to his ability to appropriate funds, he controls large blocks of votes on all legislation. He uses the power of pork to play kingmaker. It's hard to see a better example of how pork corrupts the political system.

UPDATE: Veterans For Truth held a rally to retire John Murtha yesterday, and here are the pictures.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 2, 2006 5:46 AM

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» Bill's Bites -- 2006.10.02 from Old War Dogs
The webmaster's blog-within-a-blog. Continuously updated, newest items at the top. Please click here to learn more about The Phoenix Project, then click here to see a selection of Old War Dogs merchandise. All sales proceeds go to support The Phoenix [Read More]

Tracked on October 2, 2006 6:58 AM

» Murtha and Pork from
Captain Ed has a link this morning to a New York Times profile of Congressman Murtha. Ed focuses on Murtha’s use of pork and what it means to Congress. The power Murtha exercises affects more than just his own extensive use of earmarking; he use... [Read More]

Tracked on October 2, 2006 7:13 AM

» Boss Murtha from America's North Shore Journal
NY Times profiles John Murtha. Oddly proudly. ... [Read More]

Tracked on October 2, 2006 7:37 AM

» Pork-Mob Mentality from And Rightly So!
Ed Morrisey offers an excellent look at the power of pork and how John Murtha (and others) have mastered the mannerisms of appropriations for their own benefit: The power Murtha exercises affects more than just his own extensive use of earmarking; he u... [Read More]

Tracked on October 2, 2006 8:06 AM


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