Murtha Earmark Scandal

A major earmark scandal, with Jack Murtha at its center, is brewing. Jonathan Allen and Alex Knott for CQ:

More than 100 House members secured earmarks in a major spending bill for clients of a single lobbying firm — The PMA Group — known for its close ties to John P. Murtha , the congressman in charge of Pentagon appropriations.

“It shows you how good they were,” said Keith Ashdown, chief investigator at the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense. “The sheer coordination of that would take an army to finish.”

PMA’s offices have been raided, and the firm closed its political action committee last week amid reports that the FBI is investigating possibly illegal campaign contributions to Murtha and other lawmakers.

No matter what the outcome of the federal investigation, PMA’s earmark success illustrates how a well-connected lobbying firm operates on Capitol Hill. And earmark accountability rules imposed by the Democrats in 2007 make it possible to see how extensively PMA worked the Hill for its clients.

In the spending bill managed by Murtha, the fiscal 2008 Defense appropriation, 104 House members got earmarks for projects sought by PMA clients, according to Congressional Quarterly’s analysis of a database constructed by Ashdown’s group.  Those House members, plus a handful of senators, combined to route nearly $300 million in public money to clients of PMA through that one law (PL 110-116). And when the lawmakers were in need — as they all are to finance their campaigns — PMA came through for them.

That’s the very definition of quid pro quo.   It’s also, obviously, institutionalized.  There are only 435 Members of the House of Representatives.  Nearly a quarter of them, including some senior leaders from both parties, are involved.

Story via Taegan Goddard via Memeorandum.  Cartoon by PolitickerPA via Vets for Russell.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor 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.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    I should be pointed out that Murtha is also being looked at closely in terms of a campaign finding scandal.

    Change we can believe in.

  2. sam says:

    Did you miss this change bit Bit?

    And earmark accountability rules imposed by the Democrats in 2007 make it possible to see how extensively PMA worked the Hill for its clients.

  3. just me says:

    Yeah my prediction is that rather than changing how things work with regards to lobbying firms and earmarks, we will see the sunlight aspect rule change so that they can still get tons of money from lobbyists and others and provide their little piece of quid pro quo.

  4. anjin-san says:

    This one will be interesting.

    While we are on this sort ofthing, will we ever be discussion Palin’s tax problems or the Michael Steele scandal?

  5. anjin-san says:

    Change we can believe in.

    Damn bit, you have us dead to rights. Obama’s inability to go back in time and change things that happened before he was President proves him to be a fraud.

  6. Bithead says:

    Did you miss this change bit Bit?

    Nope.
    That said, you don’t really think the Democrats would have done this without serios pressure, now do you?

    Damn bit, you have us dead to rights. Obama’s inability to go back in time and change things that happened before he was President proves him to be a fraud.

    Oh, come. Look, anjin….We were told that the Dmeocrats would be the agents of positive change. Given the number of Democrats now under investigation for misdeeds in execution of power and the illegal efforts to obtain it (campaign funding scandals), it appears we’ve elected the foxes to bring serious change to the chicken coup.

  7. Steve Verdon says:

    But the stimulus plan…why all that money will go exactly where it needs to go to produce the biggest gains for the economy. Because these men in Congress are noble and just and good. All praise Obama.

    No you’ll excuse me I have to fall down laughing.

  8. Seeing 104 Congressional criminals arrested and run out of town on a rail would go a long way towards restoring my faith in our long term prospects as a representative democracy.

  9. Bithead says:

    You’ll get no argument from me, Charles.
    But I wonder if such an event would change the voting patterns in places like Mutha’s district, for example?

  10. Neo says:

    On the other side of the earmarks ..

    Marvin Hoffman is listed in campaign finance records as one of the many lobbyists with the powerful PMA Group donating money to lawmakers. But Hoffman is a soon-to-retire information technology manager in Marina del Rey, Calif., who has never heard of the Arlington lobbying firm or the Indiana congressman to whom he supposedly gave $2,000.

    “It’s alarming that someone is stealing my identity somewhere,” Hoffman, 75, said in an interview. “I’ve never heard of this company.”

    This obviously would be illegal for PMA Group to do, but what isn’t know yet, is whether any of the targets of PMA Group knew this was going on.

  11. tom p says:

    That said, you don’t really think the Democrats would have done this without serios pressure, now do you?

    Really Bit, you make it too easy. I am forced to ask you, Did the Republicans ignore said pressure for the previous 12 yrs? Or did they just not get any pressure from their (presumably conservative) constituents?

    Either way you go, Republicans are either so corrupt they won’t bend to pressure, or their constituents are so corrupt (or ignorant) they don’t care. Which is it?

    Tell you what, I’ll give you an out, Credit where credit is due:

    And earmark accountability rules imposed by the Democrats in 2007 make it possible to see how extensively PMA worked the Hill for its clients.

    You can say it Bit… the Dems did a good thing (under pressure if you like), but they did it, you can say it,… but you won’t.

  12. tom p says:

    This obviously would be illegal for PMA Group to do, but what isn’t know yet, is whether any of the targets of PMA Group knew this was going on.

    Neo, I suspect they didn’t care enuf to look.

  13. Bithead says:

    Really Bit, you make it too easy. I am forced to ask you, Did the Republicans ignore said pressure for the previous 12 yrs? Or did they just not get any pressure from their (presumably conservative) constituents?

    and specifically, what pressure is that? What pressure was there, prior to 2006’s midterms for that to occur?

    given the number of democrats under the ethics and criminal clouds currently, I’d advise sparing us the mantra of how the democrats are acting in the best interests of anyone but themselves in this.

  14. anjin-san says:

    given the number of democrats under the ethics and criminal clouds currently

    Noteworthy that Palin’s cheating on taxes or the Michael Steele scandal outrage you not at all.

    Party before country, eh bitsy?

  15. Bithead says:

    Palin ended up paying added taxes under a new definition of the matter setup by state officials. It’s also noteworthy that the Palins didn’t prepare their own taxes. She’s paid the difference.

    Steele, meanwhile had arranged for his 2006 Senate campaign to pay a defunct company run by his sister for services that were never performed, his finance chairman from that campaign has told federal prosecutors. The payment was a payment in advance for catering(the business involved was a catering firm) and the business went belly before the party occurred. I don’t even see any evidence taht the check was ever cashed/deposited.

    Stuff happens, Anjin. You’re really putting this on par with what the Dmeocrats have been doing? You’re more desperate than I figured.

  16. anjin-san says:

    with what the Dmeocrats have been doing?

    Guess the number of republicans who are mixed up in the Murtha business eluded you. Now there is a shocker…