Sunday, October 12, 2008

Murtha and earmarks: Like Peas & Carrots!

Murtha and the rest of the corrupt congress continue to refuse to follow their own rules:

And Congress broke its pledge — and President Bush's challenge — to cut earmarks in half. Lawmakers cut the dollar amount of defense earmarks by about a fourth and the number by 19 percent.

The hidden earmarks range from $8 million for lighting sold by a financially troubled company in North Carolina to $588 million for a submarine the administration doesn't want.

After months of investigating the $459 billion 2008 defense bill, The Times found:

• The hidden $3.5 billion included 155 earmarks, among them the most costly in the bill. Congress disclosed 2,043 earmarks worth $5 billion.

• The House broke the new rules at least 110 times by failing to disclose who was getting earmarks, making it difficult for the public to judge whether the money is being spent wisely.

• In at least 175 cases, senators did not list themselves in Senate records as earmark sponsors, appearing more fiscally responsible. But they told a different story to constituents back home in news releases, claiming credit for the earmarks and any new jobs.

Lawmakers do not face penalties for failing to follow these ethics rules.

"The whole ethics bill was a sham," said Sen. Jim DeMint, a Republican from South Carolina, after being told of The Times' findings.

This continuing scandal shows the grubby little fingerprints of the Pork King, himself:

One congressman's fingerprints, however, weren't so easy to conceal. Latrobe sits in the congressional district of Rep. John Murtha, a Democrat who chairs the subcommittee that drafts the defense bill and wields the most power over defense earmarks.

Latrobe's officials have given $5,000 to Murtha's re-election fund in the past two years.

Also, Murtha had talked about giving taxpayer dollars to Latrobe. "We're trying to get together to see how we can work out an increased capacity for that particular company," Murtha said at a subcommittee hearing in April 2007. "I've talked to that producer. And what I'd like to see is them put some money in, us put some money in, and reduce the time it takes to get those spare parts out."

This spring, the Air Force carried out the earmark by asking companies to submit proposals for a $16.6 million research grant that would expand production of specialty steel made through "vacuum induction melting and vacuum arc remelting."

The money was aimed at alleviating the shortage of specialty steel.

But the foreign-steel ban proved so restrictive that the military and major defense contractors, such as Boeing, complained that they couldn't get parts. In December, Congress loosened the ban.

Latrobe has tentatively won the research grant, a Pentagon spokeswoman confirmed, although details are still being worked out.

The company would not comment on any discussions it had with Murtha. A spokeswoman defended getting the grant, saying it had been competitively bid. Even so, she acknowledged that Latrobe is the sole U.S. producer of certain specialty steels, a requirement for getting the money.

She said Latrobe was a few months away from completing the $62 million expansion while it waits for the government handout.

Through a spokesman, Murtha said the project was not an earmark because the contract was competitively bid. Last year at a hearing, however, Murtha talked of giving Latrobe funding because it was the only U.S. company that could make that steel.

I'm telling you, PA-12. There is a better way.