JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — If John Murtha were a businessman, he’d be the biggest employer in this town.
The powerful U.S. congressman has used his clout on Capitol Hill to create thousands of jobs and steer billions of dollars in federal spending to help his hometown in western Pennsylvania recover from devastating floods and the flight of its steelmakers.
More is on the way. In the massive 2008 military-spending bill now before Congress — which could go to a House-Senate conference as soon as Thursday — Mr. Murtha has steered more taxpayer funds to his congressional district than any other member. The Democratic lawmaker is chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, which will oversee more than $459 billion in military spending this year.
Johnstown’s good fortune has come at the expense of taxpayers everywhere else. Defense contractors have found that if they open an office here and hire the right lobbyist, they can get lucrative, no-bid contracts. Over the past decade, Concurrent Technologies Corp., a defense-research firm that employs 800 here, got hundreds of millions of dollars thanks to Rep. Murtha despite poor reviews by Pentagon auditors. The National Drug Intelligence Center, with 300 workers, got $509 million, though the White House has tried for years to shut it down as wasteful and unnecessary. Another beneficiary: MTS Technologies, run by a man who got his start some 40 years ago shining shoes at Mr. Murtha’s Johnstown Minute Car Wash.
A review by The Wall Street Journal of dozens of such contracts funded by Mr. Murtha’s committee shows that many weren’t sought by the military or federal agencies they were intended to benefit. Some were inefficient or mismanaged, according to interviews, public records and previously unpublished Pentagon audits. One Murtha-backed firm, ProLogic Inc., is under federal investigation for allegedly diverting public funds to develop commercial software, people close to the case say. The company denies wrongdoing and is in line to get millions of dollars more in the pending defense bill.
Here’s the WSJ’s chart, which lists the big spenders in the House:
With all that in mind, let’s not forget that House Speaker Nancy “we’re gonna clean up Washington, DC” Pelosi picked this big government corruptocrat as her second in command after the Dems won Congress back last year. In other words, she picked a Democrat who engaged in some of the very types of deals that she and other lefties routinely claimed Republicans did in the run-up to the 2006 elections. In spite of that, House Democrats denied Rep. Pelosi her attempt at pay back to Murtha for years of loyalty to far left policies by voting in Steny Hoyer as House Majority Leader instead. In fact, the vote in favor of Hoyer wasn’t even close.
Let’s also not forget that for all his posturing about loving the military and “supporting the troops” (in spite of strong evidence to the contrary) Murtha has been hell-bent on stopping the Iraq war in any way he can – even if it meant “slow bleeding” crucial funding for our military. That sure is an odd way of supporting the troops, isn’t it? Using your ranking position House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense as a way of bringing in the evil no-bid defense contracts to your hometown, while at the same time working against providing funding for our troops who are in harms way.
Brian Faughnan at the Weekly Standard blog takes a closer look at Murtha’s record and asks: “Is this what the voters of Pennsylvania expect from their Congressman?”
If not, they have the opportunity to change who their rep. is next year. The Johstown Tribune Democrat reported earlier this week that Murtha now has a Republican challenger for his Congressional seat:
After nearly three decades in the military, William T. Russell’s latest mission has brought him to Johnstown.
The career Army man, just two years short of retirement, has left the service and moved to the Flood City in order to mount a political campaign against veteran Democratic U.S. Rep. John Murtha.
As a Republican and first-time candidate facing a powerful congressman in the sprawling, Democrat-dominated 12th Congressional District, Russell faces a tough challenge.
But he is determined to press ahead and will formally announce his candidacy within weeks.
“I recognize this is an uphill battle” Russell said in an interview last week at The Tribune-Democrat.
“But it’s one that must be fought.”
Here’s Russell’s website, if you’d like more information.