Mud thrown at Murtha stains all of us
John Murtha represents the people of this region in all that he does.
We can’t accept the congressman’s earmark dollars with one hand and brush off his alleged transgressions with the other.
When he steps in mud, or when others throw mud at Murtha, we all get dirty.
That’s why, when questions are raised about possible improper activities at a Murtha-created organization, we get anxious.
And when a watchdog group rates our local congressman as being among “the most corrupt” lawmakers in Washington, we are embarrassed.
We don’t like being characterized as folks who support questionable activities, or who endorse troubling behavior by our elected officials.
In the past week, Murtha has taken shots from two sides over the way he does business in our nation’s capital.
The nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, released its third annual report on lawmakers. The group said 22 House and Senate members - 18 Republicans and four Democrats - were listed because of “their egregious, unethical and possibly illegal activities (as) the most tainted members.”
Specifically, Murtha was chosen – the group said – because of “abuse of his position on the (defense appropriations) subcommittee to benefit the lobbying firm of a former long-term staffer and for threatening to block earmarks of other members for political purposes.”
In 2006, CREW rated Murtha as a “dishonorable member” to be watched. CREW said he jumped into the “most corrupt” group in 2007 for “threatening a House member for criticizing earmarks ... a clear violation of House ethics.”
That incident was Murtha’s run-in with Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., who unsuccessfully tried to kill a $23 million earmark for the National Drug Intelligence Center in Johnstown.
Meanwhile, Roll Call, a Capitol Hill news organization, reported that a Murtha-backed nonprofit group received government contracts and works with other companies Murtha has helped to fund.
The Pennsylvania Association for Individuals with Disabilities, or PAID, is run by former Murtha aide Carmen V. Scialabba.
Ex-U.S. Sen. Max Cleland, D-Ga., confirmed to The Tribune-Democrat that he had resigned from the PAID board of directors, saying: “Once I learned more about the organization, I just decided it was not for me.”
Cleland is Murtha’s friend. The triple amputee and Vietnam veteran came to Johnstown last fall to speak on Murtha’s behalf at a political rally in Central Park.
“I’m not associated with PAID,” Cleland said. “I am not interested in pursuing that relationship at all.”
In it’s report on PAID, Roll Call said the organization “can point to few successes that are unrelated to (Murtha).” Roll Call contacted various Pennsylvania disability organizations that said they never worked with the Johnstown-based charity.
In both cases – the PAID debate and the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics report – Murtha would not comment.
That’s his prerogative.
But our prerogative is to say what we think.
We’re weary of hearing about – and writing about – accusations concerning Murtha’s character, and we wish he seemed more concerned about them.
And we’re angry that “corrupt” is how many people view our local congressman.
Or in the last 16 elections, for that matter.
Perhaps they will think twice before doing so in 2008.
The Johnstown-Democrat publishes yet another scathing article slamming their favorite son.
And it couldn't happen to a nicer fellow.