The Wall Street Journal either exposes John Murtha once again as a manipulative and corrupt public official or the champion of those lucky enough to live in his district. King Jack of Pork hasn’t slowed down a bit, and in fact has picked up steam since the Democrats came into power. Even with most of the budget bills still vaporware, the unrivaled earmarker already has over $190 million coming back home, more than $30 million ahead of his nearest competition:
In the massive 2008 military-spending bill now before Congress — which could go to a House-Senate conference as soon as Thursday — Mr. Murtha has steered more taxpayer funds to his congressional district than any other member. The Democratic lawmaker is chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, which will oversee more than $459 billion in military spending this year.
Johnstown’s good fortune has come at the expense of taxpayers everywhere else. Defense contractors have found that if they open an office here and hire the right lobbyist, they can get lucrative, no-bid contracts. Over the past decade, Concurrent Technologies Corp., a defense-research firm that employs 800 here, got hundreds of millions of dollars thanks to Rep. Murtha despite poor reviews by Pentagon auditors. The National Drug Intelligence Center, with 300 workers, got $509 million, though the White House has tried for years to shut it down as wasteful and unnecessary. Another beneficiary: MTS Technologies, run by a man who got his start some 40 years ago shining shoes at Mr. Murtha’s Johnstown Minute Car Wash.
A review by The Wall Street Journal of dozens of such contracts funded by Mr. Murtha’s committee shows that many weren’t sought by the military or federal agencies they were intended to benefit. Some were inefficient or mismanaged, according to interviews, public records and previously unpublished Pentagon audits. One Murtha-backed firm, ProLogic Inc., is under federal investigation for allegedly diverting public funds to develop commercial software, people close to the case say. The company denies wrongdoing and is in line to get millions of dollars more in the pending defense bill. …
But for his 33 years in Congress, his overriding focus has been the revival of his hard-luck hometown. In addition to using taxpayer money to build a local defense industry, Mr. Murtha has funded by legislative fiat miles of new roads, water projects, medical facilities and federal offices for his district. He even brought a Marine attack-helicopter squadron here; it’s next to the John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport. Mr. Murtha has steered at least $600 million in earmarks to his district in the past four years, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan Washington group. The nonprofit group estimates he’s sent $2 billion or more to the district since joining the appropriations committee.
Murtha says he won’t apologize for raiding the federal treasury to enrich his district. Johnstown certainly doesn’t want an apology; they keep re-electing him to bring home our tax dollars, even for unwanted efforts such as the National Drug Intelligence Center. They’ll build him a statue when he retires, and if Murtha’s around to do it, we’ll wind up paying for it with another earmark.
No wonder Charlie Rangel wants his Monument to Me. He’s playing catch-up.
Let’s take a look at the beneficiaries of Murtha by using the invaluable tool, Fedspending.org. According to the data, the contracts awarded for performance in Murtha’s district in 2006 hardly display a model of government accountability. Only 23% were awarded as competitive bids. That comprises $32 million out of $136 million spent in Johnstown that year. For 2007, the numbers are even worse. Only 15% — $27 million out of $174 million — came from open, multibid competition. In the past three years, Murtha has sent $352 million directly back to his district, and only 19% of those contracts had multibid competition.
One of his biggest beneficiaries has been Concurrent Technologies, which has received hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts every year from the federal government, thanks to the intercession of Murtha. How has CT won its contracts? Almost entirely through non-competitive means. In 2006, only 19% of their contracts had another bidder, but that beats 2005 and 2007, which has 5% and 4%, respectively. In contrast, Halliburton’s parent KBR won 95% of its contracts in multibid competition in 2005, 93% in 2006, and 99.4% in 2007.
Johnstown and Murtha’s cronies have made out like bandits, a particularly apt term. The rest of us have seen our money disappear into ratholes, helped along by a corrupt politician who has eliminated the competition for himself and for his allies through the earmark process.
UPDATE: Let’s take a look at the competitive nature of another Murtha beneficiary, KDH Defense Systems. In three years, they have received over $32 million in government contracts, none of it in multibid competition. Not one single dollar spent at KDH has had a full, open bid process to ensure that taxpayers have received the best value for their money.
In answer to the tired complaints of Dave Rywall, yes, Republicans earmark like drunken, er, politicians, too. (Don’t want to insult sailors!) I have remarked repeatedly on this blog about the Republican majority’s abject failure to change the spending dynamic and their wholehearted adoption of the worst spending tactics. If you can’t keep up with that, don’t blame me for not doing a complete recap of every pork item on every post.
UPDATE II: Brian Faughnan at the Weekly Standard wonders if Murtha really represents the values of Pennsylvanians. Check out the links to Murtha’s outright fibs on spending.