Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Bringing home the bacon.. while exacting it from the backs of the taxpayers?

Murtha's frequent surrender-monkey complaints often center around the cost of the Iraq war
REP. MURTHA: Well, “stay the course” is “stay and pay.” This is the thing that has worried me right along. We’re spending $8 billion dollars a month, $300 million dollars a day. And to give you some perspective of what that means, Gates said, “I’m going to quit the corporation, or I’m going to—less time with the corporation.” Well, you weigh $30 billion dollars. That’s four months of the cost of this war. This port security, if you want to spend more money, it’d would take 47 years the way we’re spending it. Education, the No Child Left Behind, a couple months of the war would pay for that. Whose going to, whose going to pay for this down the road? Our children and grandchildren are paying for this war. And then you have the, the, the emotional strain, the, the, the people who are being hurt.
...Sure is something how Murtha all of a sudden has the taxpayer's best interests in heart, when his past actions indicate otherwise:
A similar bottom-line mentality, the "political bottom line," is also quite evident in the public sector. For example, when it comes to spending money, the U.S. Congress has no equal. Although much of this expenditure is for purposes of national concern, a sizable portion is devoted to pork-barreling. Pork-barreling refers to the practice whereby a senator or representative forces Congress to allocate monies to special projects that take place in his or her home district. In many cases, the projects have little value and represent a drain on the taxpayers. They do, however, create jobs--and political support--in the home district. This practice is common, because many members of Congress believe it will help them get votes in the next election.

In some more extreme--and definitely ethically questionable--situations, such actions are designed to reward some large-scale campaign contributors in the home district. A case in point is the Maxi Cube cargo handling system. Funds for testing the Maxi Cube cargo handling system were written into the fiscal 1989 defense budget during the final Senate-House Appropriations conference at the request of Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania. The $10 million item was specifically targeted for a Philadelphia businessman (and contributor to Murtha's campaign) who was to manufacture the truck in Murtha's home district. The only problem was that the U.S. Army had clearly said that it had "no known requirement" for the handler. In response, Murtha was reported to be "mad as hell" at the "nitpicking" by the army. He pushed ahead anyway and used his position on the Appropriations committee to freeze a series of military budgeting requests until he got his pet project approved.

And Murtha is not alone. Rep. Les Aspin of Wisconsin got the Defense Appropriations committee to include $249 million to continue making a certain ten-ton truck (in Wisconsin, naturally) that the army was trying to phase out. It, too, was unneeded, but Aspin wanted the project for his home district. Is this legal? Yes? Is it ethical? That depends upon your point of view (Morgan, 1989). Clearly, Murtha and Aspin thought it was appropriate, given the realities of today's private and public organizations.

So wasting taxpayer money in the pursuit of votes is acceptable with Murtha, but spending money on the real defense of our nation is not?Well, that may not be entirely true...

Roll Call’s Mary Jacoby stated in a February 24, 1994 article that it might have prevented him from becoming the chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations:

“Rep. John Murtha’s (D-Pa) well-known ability to channel federal dollars to his southwestern Pennsylvania district has made him a hero at home but, ironically, is one factor keeping him out of the quiet race to succeed ailing Appropriations Chairman Bill Natcher (D-Ky), according to House sources.

“Of the approximately $4 billion in ‘directed spending’ contained in the $240 billion fiscal 1994 defense appropriations bill, more than $110 million is earmarked for projects in Murtha’s district.

“As a result, Members and top aides say, there is a feeling that an institution already suffering a public relations problem can not afford an Appropriations chairman portrayed by the press – fairly or not – as a leading pork-barrel politician.”

What were some of the earmarks identified by Jacoby?

“As chairman of the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee, Murtha last year helped produce a $240 billion spending bill that included $113 million for projects in his hometown of Johnstown.”

Murtha's penchant for cronyism and favoritism are not necessarily limited to bringing the pork home for his district. It would appear that campaign contributions appear to appeal to Murtha's appetite in doling out taxpayer money:
Another ProLogic benefactor is Representative John Murtha of Pennsylvania, the top Democrat on the appropriations subcommittee that controls defense spending. Before ProLogic opened an office last year in Uniontown, the company got $9 million in ``programs in which we are involved'' with Murtha's help, Chief Executive Office Jay Reddy said in a December 2003 statement.

Murtha, 74, has received $22,000 in campaign donations from ProLogic's PAC and employees since 2001, the FEC records show.
Screening Projects

Murtha said in a statement that any project that is asking for money from his office is screened to make sure it has a customer base and is something the military needs.

``It is the policy of my office to do what we can to help businesses who are interested in doing business in the 12th district of Pennsylvania and the nearby region,'' he said.
Not to mention this:

Dan Gordon, ProLogic’s President, said that a key factor in ProLogic’s “ability to grow” was opening offices in “areas that have historically been underserved by the technology industry.” My guess is that they have been thinking less about opening up new offices in neglected areas than they have about finding friends on the appropriations committees. In addition to their office at the Purdue Center, Gordon pointed to two other new facilities, one in Manassas, Virginia (represented by Representative Jim Moran) and the other in Uniontown, Pennsylvania (represented by Representative John Murtha). Like Visclosky, Moran and Murtha are key Democrats on the House defense appropriations subcommittee.

ProLogic has made large donations to both congressmen, and so has PMA. But the connections go even deeper: Melissa Koloszar, Moran’s former chief of staff, is now a lobbyist at PMA. Another firm lobbyist, Daniel Cunningham, who formerly worked for the Army, is extremely close to Murtha. According to Cunningham’s online bio, he “fostered an exceptional working relationship with Appropriations committees,” and according to my Hill source, Murtha even uses Cunningham as his unofficial driver. (Cunningham and Murtha’s office did not return phone calls.)

It would seem that Murtha's strategy lapses with regard to Iraq, along with his acting as Marines' judge, jury and executioner without due process may not be the only things on Murtha's plate come November.

(Cross posted at Murtha Must Go!)

(Filed under Murtha Must Go!)