Pennsylvania Democratic Congressman John Murtha found an unwanted present on the front page of The Washington Post on Christmas Day: A detailed investigative report on how he funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds into a not-for-profit run by one of his staff members.
This, of course, does not sit well with Democratic activists who rally behind Murtha because of the Congressman’s staunch opposition to the war in Iraq.
Writes Jonathan Weisman of The Post:
For a quarter of a century, Carmen Scialabba labored for Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), helping parcel out the billions of dollars that came through the House Appropriations Committee, so when the disabled aide needed a favor, Murtha was there.
In 2001, Murtha announced the creation of Scialabba’s nonprofit agency for the disabled in Johnstown, Pa. The next year, with Scialabba still on his staff, Murtha secured a half-million dollars for the group, the Pennsylvania Association for Individuals With Disabilities (PAID), and put another $150,000 in the pipeline for 2003, according to appropriations committee records and former committee aides. Since then, the group has helped hundreds of disabled people find work.
But the group serves another function as well. PAID has become a gathering point for defense contractors and lobbyists with business before Murtha’s defense appropriations subcommittee, and for Pennsylvania businesses and universities that have thrived on federal money obtained by Murtha.
Lobbyists and corporate officials serve as directors on the nonprofit group’s board, where they help raise money and find jobs for Johnstown’s disabled workers. Some of those lobbyists have served as intermediaries between the defense contractors and businessmen on the board, and Murtha and his aides.
That arrangement over the years has yielded millions of dollars in federal support for the contractors, businesses and universities, and hundreds of thousands in consulting and lobbying fees to Murtha’s favored lobbying shops, according to Federal Election Commission records and lobbying disclosure forms. In turn, many of PAID’s directors have kept Murtha’s campaigns flush with cash.
Murtha, of course, denies any wrongdoing. In more than 40 years of reporting on politics or working within the system as a political operative, I have yet to see an elected official stand up and say "I did it! I’m wrong!" Hell, these clowns could get caught buggering a nun on the steps of the Capitol and they would claim that they were investigating prostitution in Catholic convents.
This is not the first time Murtha has been caught playing fast and loose with the rules. This is, after all, the same John Murtha who told an undercover FBI agent that he wouldn’t accept a $50,000 bribe only because "I don’t know you well enough." He didn’t report the bribe offer and later said he wanted to keep the lines of communication open with the man he thought represented a company that "might help out my district."
Murtha’s ethical problems highlight just how difficult it will be for Democrats to keep their promise to clean up Congress and reform the cesspool that stinks up the joint on Capitol Hill.
Incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the daughter of one of the most corrupt mayors in American history, mob-controlled Thomas "Old Tommy" D’Alesandro of Baltimore, promises a reform agenda but she also backed Murtha in his failed attempt to become majority leader of the new congress.
And Murtha is just one open, oozing sore on the Democrats’ body politic. They still have sleazeballs like Louisiana’s William Jefferson, the Congressman caught hiding marked bills from an FBI sting in his refrigerator; West Virginia’s Allan Mollohan, who set up his own non-profit groups to spend millions of dollars of federal funds sent into his district; or Corrine Brown, the Florida congresswoman who defrauded business partners and wrote thousands of dollars in bad checks.
Over on the Senate side, the party of the jackass is run by Harry Reid, the Nevada senator who never met a bribe he couldn’t take or a fast-buck deal he didn’t like. Reid has a long history of using his office to fatten his bank account and he may well be the biggest stumbling block to bringing troops home from Iraq. Reid says he supports the "troop surge" plan and it’s no secret why: The defense industry is second only to gaming in Nevada and they pay a lot for Reid’s support.
Democrats may talk reform but, in the end, they are no better than Republicans when it comes to talking out of both sides of their mouth. They still owe their jobs to special interest groups. Organized labor is already licking its chops and handing out "their legislative agenda" to the new leadership.
When Congress convenes next month, the fatcat lobbyists who bought the new leadership of the House and Senate will come calling and demand payment in full.
But, as always happens, American voters will pay the cost – plus interest – for foolishly wishing anything would – or could – change.