Friday, September 22, 2006

Meet the new boss?

TP Muckraker has the following observations:
John Murtha: Meet the New Boss. . .

Washington has witnessed a storm of "pay-to-play" corruption scandals in Congress over the last year, both admitted and alleged. And on the campaign trail congressional Democrats are charging the GOP with creating a "culture of corruption" on their watch. Yet if they win, they are poised to hand a much-abused spending post to a Democrat with a long reputation for porkbarrel politics and "back room" deals.

If the Dems take control of the House in November, Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), now lauded by Democratic activists for his tough stand on Iraq, is poised to retake the helm of an appropriations panel charged with spending hundreds of billions of dollars on defense-related projects, which he last chaired in the early 1990s. He may even ascend to be Majority Leader in a Democratically controlled House.

Yet Murtha -- who U.S. News and World Report once called "one of Capitol Hill's most accomplished masters at the art of pork" -- presides over a tightly connected network of favored lobbyists, former staffers and major campaign contributors that bears a striking resemblance to those maintained by some of the tarnished Republicans he would likely replace.

Murtha's office declined my request for comment on this article.

Take Jerry Lewis (R-CA). Under FBI investigation, Lewis -- now the chair of the entire Appropriations Committee -- until two years ago chaired the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, which Murtha is in line to take over.

"They're very similar," Melanie Sloan told me. Sloan, head of the D.C.-based watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, is a former federal prosecutor. "They're both using their positions to financially benefit those close to them." Her self-described "progressive" group is investigating Murtha's activities, and recently placed him on a short list of "members to watch" for possible corruption.

Murtha won his reputation by setting up a neat, closed circle of largesse, not unlike the one belonging to Lewis.

Both lawmakers have directed millions in government spending to a handful of organizations and individuals who in turn donate to their campaigns, and hire their former aides as lobbyists.

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. (Read the rest)

Voters of PA-12, again I ask--just whose interests does Jack P. Murtha represent?