John Murtha, chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Committee who was considered one of the most corrupt members of Congress, died today.
The Defense Appropriations subcommittee is perhaps the most powerful in the House, funding not just the world’s biggest military, but the U.S. intelligence community as well.
President Obama signed the $636 billion 210 Defense appropriations bill into law in December. In it, Taxpayers for Common Sense counted 1,720 earmarks totalling $4.2 billion.
As chairman, Murtha cleaned up with 23 earmarks worth $76.5 billion.
With so much power and money flowing through it, the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee has become fertile ground for corruption on both sides of the aisle. One of its more infamous members was another Vietnam war hero like Murtha, Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Calif.
With Murtha gone, the lobbyists and defense contractors who fed at his trough for so many years are in mourning. At the top of that heap is lobbyist Paul Magliochetti, a former Murtha aide whose PMA Group was raided last year.
Johnstown, Pennsylvania will also need to find another sponsor for all the pet projects nurtured for years by Murtha, the representative since 1974. Things like the National Drug Intelligence Center. Or the John P. Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport. Or the Johnstown Flood National Memorial.
The FBI captured Murtha’s bare-knuckled performance on videotape in 1980 during an undercover sting aimed at exposing corrupt lawmakers. Murtha turned down 50,000 cash from the representative for a phony Arab sheikh, but not before adding, “After we’ve done some business, I might change my mind.”
Murtha was never charged with a crime, and in Congress, Speaker Tip O’Neill protected Murtha, as George Crile revealed in Charlie Wilson’s War. Wilson shut down the House Ethics Committee’s probe before a special prosecutor could move on Murtha.
When Murtha was in the running for majority leader in the fall of 2006, someone leaked a copy of the FBI videotape to The American Spectator. (See here.)