Murtha and Lott Spur Leadership Bids Spark Controversy

John Murtha is charging his Democratic critics of Swift Boat tactics for pointing out multiple ethical questions surrounding his candidacy for House Majority Leader.

Rep. John Murtha, the anti-war congressman who is the likely new House speaker’s pick for majority leader, fended off what he called “swift boat-style attacks” on his ethics record Tuesday.


In routing the GOP in the November 7 elections, Democrats attacked what they called a Republican “culture of corruption.”

Now a Washington watchdog group is questioning the party’s sincerity, alleging Murtha steered Pentagon contracts to businesses that hired his brother as a lobbyist. “How can Americans believe that the Democrats will return integrity to the House when future Speaker Pelosi has endorsed an ethically challenged member for a leadership position?” Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, asked in a written statement. “Rep. Murtha is the wrong choice for this job.” Murtha told ABC in October that his brother “was treated like everybody else.”

Murtha also turned up in the FBI’s Abscam investigation in 1980, when undercover agents offered bribes to several members of Congress. Murtha was videotaped turning down a bribe “at this point,” and he was not charged.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Murtha — who just won an 18th term — blasted critics who raised concerns about “unfounded allegations that occurred 26 years ago.” “I thought we were above this type of swift-boating attack,” he said, referring to the largely refuted but widely publicized attacks on Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry’s military record in 2004. “This is not how we restore integrity and civility to the United States Congress.”

Nor is it how we turn back a “culture of corruption.”

Of course, the Republicans would be in a better position if they were not about to re-elect two thirds of the House leadership team that blew it so badly. And, inexplicably, considering bringing Trent Lott back on the Senate side. It’s rather hard to claim that the party has changed when presenting the same old faces who got them where they are now.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Mitch says:

    Murtha is done. I can’t believe he’s playing the vicitim. Typical of a Democrat. Pelosi says she wants to clean the swamp or something like that but here comes Murtha who is like the swamp monster to lead the party? I don’t get it.

    Today’s column in the Washington Post also notes:

    Even if it weren’t, though, everything in Murtha’s post-Abscam life is of a piece with the back-scratching, dealmaking style on display in the video. In a story last month, the New York Times described how Murtha has operated “a political trading post” in a back corner — the Murtha corner, it’s called — of the House floor, where Democrats and Republicans alike come to get Murtha’s blessing for earmarks or his help on close votes. As Pennsylvania Democrat Paul Kanjorski told the Times, “nobody ever leaves completely disappointed.”

  2. Mack says:

    He says swiftboating as if there were something wrong with it. It is quickly proving to mean telling the truth about some self-important Democrat. “Swift-Boating” is bringing out someone’s checkered past and/or their own, damning words to challenge the political facade politicians like to create to deceive voters.(Hat tip to the Strata-sphere).

  3. madmatt says:

    26 year old allegations are the best you can do…why not try something a little more current like abromoff off to jail or noe off to jail(oh yeah your guys, my bad)how about jefferson down in LA who the dem leadership have ostracized even if voters haven’t….harder story to do. Sure murtha is scum, but he is right about the war!

  4. legion says:

    Seriously. Murtha’s hardly a shining light, but Trent freakin’ Lott? Is not being under federal indictment now the _only_ criteria for leadership in the GOP these days?

    When they say ‘stay the course’, they _mean_ ‘stay the course. The same course that lost them Congress.

  5. RJN says:

    Yet another loss for the Washington Post. The swift boat claims (attacks) were never found inaccurate.

  6. Mitch says:

    I just read on Kos how Murtha chose not to campaign for a Democratic House candidate in Arizona THIS election cycle because he was too close with the opponent’s father. I don’t think the democrats can depend on him or trust him for that matter. I guess we’ll know soon enough who the next leader will be.

  7. Herb says:

    No matter what happens, Polosi wants Murtha and that should tell every American that she not only wants to have Crooks on her ticket, but also Cowards. Then again. looks like the Cowards are going to do everything possible to throw their hands in the air, cut and run and surrender to the the terrorists that want to behead her as well as all Democrats. Who knows, it might be the salvation of our nation.

    Congresswoman Jean Schmidt had it right, only she forgot to mention all those like Murtha who are part of the “Cut and Run” crowd.

  8. Brett Rogers says:

    I’m done with the GOP. Time to start over…

  9. geezer says:

    “…swift-boating attack,” he said, referring to the largely refuted but widely publicized attacks on Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry’s military record in 2004.”

    Largely refuted by who? They actually got Kerry to back off of some of his ancient claims as I recall. And I sure don’t remember the MSM doing much of that “widely publicized” thingy on the attacks themselves, either.

    Brett Rogers: we feel your pain, but remember–it’s only been a week, for cryin’ out loud. Let’s let the dust settle and see what happens after the Dems have to actually start talking and acting like grownups. I hope the two parties can work together for our common good, but I can’t help thinking the Dems will revert to type sooner than later.

  10. Michael says:

    By “Democratic critics” you mean “a Washington watchdog group”, “Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington”. See, the article seems to say “Democratic critics” to imply members of the Democratic caucus in the House, when really it is a third party making the accusations.

    On the list of complains is the appearance of impropriety, and turning down a bribe. Now I can see complaining about the first, but complaining that he turned down a bribe? Hardly the same “Culture of Corruption” as Delay, Cunningham and Ney. If the GOP is going to run on anti-corruption in 2008, they’ll need to do better than this.

    Finally “Murtha chose not to campaign for a Democratic House candidate in Arizona THIS election cycle because he was too close with the opponent’s father.”. So avoiding a personal conflict of interest is now a bad thing? Or maybe congressman simply should not ever be friends with people of different party affiliation. Unless of course you are suggesting that congressman should always put partisanship before family, friendship and personal loyaly.

  11. Michael says:

    Brett Rogers: we feel your pain, but remember—it’s only been a week, for cryin’ out loud.

    Yeah, just imagine how many stupid decisions they will be able to make in the next 103 weeks!