Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Guardian of taxpayers' money? Or more hipocrisy?

As I have mentioned before, one of John Murtha's perennial surrender monkey chants regarding the war in Iraq is that it is costing us too much money.

But is John Murtha really the guardian of taxpayer money that he claims to be? It would appear to the contrary. In addition to the questionable cronyism and financial dealings of Murtha mentioned here, Murtha appears to find himself embroiled in a controversy a continent away from Pennsylvania:
Jerry Lewis is a man embattled.

In nearly 40 years of public service, he has risen from humble roots on the school board in San Bernardino to become one of the most powerful members of the House of Representatives - chairman of the Appropriations Committee, which oversees nearly $900 billion in federal funding.

The Redlands Republican touts his successes in developing federal clean air standards, crafting crime and drug legislation and securing emergency funding for disaster relief for California.

Closer to home, he counts the establishment of a high-tech cancer center at Loma Linda University Medical Center, the expansion of Ontario International Airport and the ongoing redevelopment of the former Norton Air Force Base as key achievements.

Now he is in trouble. In recent weeks, he has emerged at the center of a Department of Justice investigation that has already banished one congressman to prison for accepting $2.4 million in bribes.

The Justice Department and the FBI are investigating his relationship with powerful Washington lobbyist Bill Lowery, a former congressman and longtime friend of Lewis'.

Okay, so a Republican Congressman in California seems to have gotten his hand caught in the cookie jar... but here's where it gets interesting..

The investigation into Lewis and Lowery stems from a federal probe of former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Escondido, who was sentenced to eight years in prison in November after admitting he accepted more than $2.4 million in bribes from businessmen seeking federal contracts.

Brent Wilkes, an unindicted co-conspirator in the Cunningham case, was a client of Lowery's firm and a contributor to Lewis' campaign.

Wilkes also worked for a former defense contractor who told NBC News last week that he had been interviewed by federal investigators and that he told them Lewis had asked him to hire Lowery's firm and give stock options to Lowery under a false name when the contractor was seeking a federal contract to digitize documents in 1993.

Tom Casey, who owned the now-defunct Audre Recognition Systems Inc., claimed that Lewis aide Letitia White, who is now a partner in Lowery's firm, allowed him to write the text of an appropriation earmark.

In a television interview, Casey acknowledged he had no proof Lewis did anything illegal and said he never issued the stock options.

Dirk Holland, a former employee of Casey's, said last week that Casey had asked employees to make contributions to elected officials and later reimbursed them.

"If I was the federal government, I'd be investigating him," Holland said of Casey last week. "I worked with him six years. He used to encourage employees to make campaign contributions, and the company refunded them. That's illegal."

Casey could not be reached for comment for this story.

Campaign contributions from Casey and his associates at Audre Inc. to members of the Defense Appropriations subcommittee included $5,000 to Lewis in 1993-94 and $4,000 to Rep. John P. Murtha, D-Pa., the panel's chairman at the time.

Another "You grease my palm and I'll grease yours" deal? For a man who complains that our grandkids will be picking up the tab for the Iraq war, Murtha can be rather cavalier about brokering and/or being a partner to "sweetheart deals" that result in at best financial or political gain for Murtha and/or his cronies; and at worst, just a downright waste of his and our grandkids' taxpayer dollars.