In the end, only corruption wins

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.

Comments

  1. Sherry

    Have any of you ever wondered what the state of our public check book would be if we only spent money necessary to fund the basics? No pork. No bull. Just the stuff it takes to run the country, like infrastructure, shoring up levees, etc?
    I am thinking Americans would have a lot more money and so would the treasury.

  2. AustinRanter

    Sandy,

    The founders originally felt it best for the Legislative bodies of each states to appoint Senators. It was that way before 1913.

    The reason that process ceased to be is because of claims that there was too much freuding in the individual legislations…and they hadn’t fine tuned the process, consquently there were periods of time where some states would fail to have a Senator appointed.

    I think we’re able to work that process out now.

    So many of the founders would have completely cringed and flipped out at the 17th Amendment. That was totally not how they argued and debated on how the Senate seats would be created. Their arguments are clear in the Federalist Papers.

  3. Mary

    Once again, I think some of us, mostly Doug, are guilty of over generalizing, which is a social science term for painting with too broad a brush. Sure there are problems with the system. Certainly $$$ plays much too big a role in our political process. However, I do not think it is hopeless and that we need a revolution. I am more into evolution not revolution, which is much too messy.

    As such, I worked in Arizona for the “Clean Elections” campaign, which created public funding for AZ state elections. More public funding at the state and national level would be helpful, but not sufficient. Also,I favor free air time from the media as the price for their broadcast liscenses.
    I don’t particularly favor term limits. We do need people in Congress who have seasoned experience.
    Informed voter participation would help weed out those who have stayed too long.

    No matter what “reforms” are initiated, they are all for nothing if the citizens do not shoulder their responsibility to be active participants in their government. I would suggest joining or contributing to reform minded groups, such as the League of Women Voters, who
    are striving for election reform or the “Clean Electons” Campaign, Common Cause etc. There are many organizations out there working towards reform. They need citizen support.

    A revolution is highly unlikely, but that doesn’t mean we should just give up trying to improve our governmental process. If the citizenry is uninformed and apathetic even a revolution won’t do the job. Government is a process and requires constant maintenance and adjustments. Utopia is not to be found on Planet Earth.

  4. Hank Berman

    Thanks Doug for trying to cut through the corruption crap like a laser. It is my opinion that when all is said and done political corruption (read stealing) is the biggest problem facing us. After all isn’t war just a rationale for greater levels corruption? If there emerges any so called ‘servant of the people’ who tags corruption as an issue that he/she will put on the front burner, all thinking Americans should give them their support. The c word needs to become a larger part of the pilitical discourse.

  5. Carl Nemo

    A fine “Rant” post Doug! Since I respect your incisive opinion on many, if not most political issues; I thought I’d prevail upon you to prognosticate where the Republic is headed under the control of the Democrats during the next two years? Are we to see a continuation of the Bushista agenda with the Dems acting in a falsely concerned, ineffective fashion; then within a year or so becoming becoming conveniently and distractingly obsessed with presidential politics while “We the People” have to continue eating more of the same “shit” coming out of D.C.? Will we see an end to our our involvment in Iraq and the Bushistas brought to justice through impeachment or will the war continue, ad nauseum ad infinitum until the Republic collapses within the next 10 minus years or so under the incredible financial strain and gross mismanagement of our national resources ?!

  6. Sandy Price

    Repeal the 17th and enforce the 10th and we just might have something. Austin, how would you put people in the Senate?

    Would these be a workable solutions? My problem with the Senate and the Congress is their lack of desire to stick with the Constitution and return the issues not stipulated in that document back to the individual states.

    Now that the State’s vote for their Senators, I would think these people would want to keep the actions discussed and solved locally.

    Even Term limits for the Congress can come from the Individual States if we demand it. Years ago I would have fought anyone who wanted term limits and campaign funding but the voters are too lazy to look into what their house members are doing. Who ever shows up at state fairs and other state functions gets reelected because they are recognizable. Before television and the internet we all had hoped for other candidates to get their face and words out to the voters.

    I realize states like Texas and California are too big for any one-on-one contact with the voters. I’m very pleased that channels like MSNBC allows all candidates a place on their talk shows so we can get a look at the candidate’s mannerisms and their reactions to questions. Fox has only Conservatives and CNN has the liberals.

    We must talk this over. CHB has the Reader Rant and that should be utilized for this purpose. Doug is involved in the Reader Rant and often responds. We have tried to involve opinions for correction in the past but somehow it has not taken off.

    I’m delighted with this blog as we are of all political parties, all agreeing that something should be done….

  7. AustinRanter

    I think Paolo’s comments have merit.

    Quote
    ===========================
    “You think politician are going to voluntarily limit their power? Get real.”

    And Paola went on to say:

    “Face it folks, If you want change, it’s not gonna happen through voting.”
    ===========================

    What we all see or hear about our Government officals regarding their being corrupt, crooks, etc…that’s all symptoms of a disease or syndrome that’s manifested over time. Can’t get rid of the symptoms until you get rid of the disease.

    I don’t have the answers…obviously, and if I did, I’d be sitting in the big chair in the West Wing, but like Kent Shaw said, “We need solutions. Probably somewhere outside the box.”

    A good starting place would be to start a movement to get the 17th Amendment repealed. Again, it’s not the total answer, but it would kick the breathe out of the government as we now know it.

  8. Wayne K Dolik

    So let’s see what we have here Doug. On one hand we have Murtha sending taxpayers money to help the disabled people, and a few business lobbyists and such offering up some help as well. That sounds pretty good to me.

    Take a look at the no-bid contractors in Iraq Doug if you really want to get taxpayers blood boiling. We are spending Billions in Iraq, not a few million for a good cause, I might add. And, do you want to bet there is some REAL FRAUD in Iraq, if we check those invoices? Maybe Doug, you could write a future article to our Democrats in control of the House and Senate, and ask them to check out what were spending for all those no-bid contracts.

    Truthfully, most voters have no idea how much damage has been done to America in the last 6 years. Most people know we have always been a little corrupt in our politics. The real damage is what we have done to our Constitution (yours and my rights) our Imperialistic foreign policy, a corrupt Press run by bankrupt corporatism, and undue foreign influence. Most people just don’t understand how many years it will take to fix the problems caused by this present Junta.

    I don’t like to generalize but it was only the Limousines Liberals that won in the Democratic Party. The party didn’t give the Progressive Democrats any money from it’s power brokers. John Murtha because of his anti-war position is clearly in the progressive camp and has my vote for now.

    The truth is that, John Murtha speaks for the Progressive Democrats and that makes a lot of people in the mainstream nervous.

  9. Kent Shaw

    Paolo, I await your suggestions for the solution, aside from starting a revolution. Are YOU going to fire the first shot? I’m not trying to antagonize. We need solutions. Probably from somewhere “outside the box”.

  10. I hate crooks to the depth of my being. Anyone who decides that gouging and chizeling is a right has lost all sense of what is important in life. Who wants great wealth or power in a nation full of crooks, suckers, and lazy cowards.

    My beef with Republicans is different. Above all, they are traitors. They have been a subversive organization at least since Nixon sabotaged the 68 peace talks. And, of course, treason is nothing to most crooks because if offers another opportunity.

  11. Paolo

    Oh dear. We’re hearing the same old shopworn “solutions” of “term limits” and “public financing of campaigns.”

    First off, term limits are not going to happen. You think the politicians are going to voluntarily limit their power? Get real.

    “Public financing” is another red herring. What this translates to is: the government will finance all campaigns to see who runs the government. Oh yeah, that’s a great idea! Gee, you think under such a system the government just might finance only the two major parties? After all, we can’t have “chaos” in the election process, right?

    “Public financing of campaigns” is just another way the entrenched powers would entrench themselves a little deeper, leaving zero chance for anyone on the outside from getting in.

    “Term limits” in the form of voting out incumbents is a nice idea for Ms. Pringle’s 8th grade civics class, but it doesn’t happen in the real world. The incumbency system is self-supporting.

    Face it, folks, if you want change, it’s not gonna happen through voting.

  12. Brian Wheeler

    You want him to say “I did it, I’m wrong” What is the particular crime or ethical violation being alleged?

    A disabled member of his staff sets up a non-profit to help other disabled people find jobs and Murtha aids that non-profit. What does that have to with “labor” that was discussed in earlier postings?

    Murtha has been on the Defense Appropriations subcommittee, so he will be “helping to parcel out” appropriations in the course of his job. Has anyone alleged any improprieties on the part of Scialabba’s organization regarding the use of those funds?

    Admittedly, there may be an ethical violation if Murtha conditioned his support for a particular defense contract on that contractor’s support for the non-profit, but barring some evidence of that non-profit misusing those funds, can’t we concentrate our disgust on politicians who use the same tactic for personal enrichment. I didn’t see the the original article’s headline. Did it read, “Congressman Uses Position To Help Disabled People Find Jobs?”

  13. Joe Lawrence

    Yes, the Ds are every bit as corrupt as the Rs, but in different ways and for different reasons. They all, though, are corrupt for bending to the will of their larger funders, and both term limits and public-only financing of campaigns would bring a good start to reform.

    The chances? Zip, zero, nada.

    We, the people, have let so much go on for so long that we are pretty much totally screwed. Hope for that one good guy to come along is all that keeps me from further fortifying my own hidden shelter against the coming tipping point.

    I feel awful for my children and their children, but there is little to do except keep on voting out incumbents without regard to either their own merits or those of their opponents. I call this the ‘ballot-box term limitation’ approach, and I see no other to be workable.

  14. beck

    This is what you get with rule by the Christo-corporatists. Look folks, the Republicans are just interested in themselves. The Dems are corrupt too, but they spread a little of the loot around to the common people while they are emptying the piggy bank.

    We need real reform in Congress. The main reason is so the multinationals and foreign governments don’t run our country.

  15. Kent Shaw

    Also, in theory the public owns the airwaves but we allow corporate use of same in pursuit of massive profit. It wouldn’t hurt them to give free air time to legitimate debate among candidates once every couple years. For the good of all, private citizen and corporate citizen alike. I guess that’s probably too “liberal” of an attitude for some, though, eh?

  16. Kent Shaw

    I for one will do what I can to advance the cause of term limits and public financing of federal campaigns. There must be absolutely NO campaign funds available for any individual candidate from any other source. Not from political parties, not from individuals, not from business of any type, not from any political action committee, etc. Don’t tell me I am limiting freedom of speech. I did not say that any of these entities should be prohibited from campaigning for or paying for advertisements for any particular candidate. But when Exxon/Mobil/Texaco/Shell runs an ad supporting Mr. Texas oilman for president they should have to identify themselves in the ad. Then we can wonder just WHY that particular entity is supporting that particular candidate. Of course this will never happen with the entrenched corruption we already have. Maybe Paolo is right. Maybe its time to start dumping some tea into Boston Harbor.

  17. John

    Wow; a Democrat that steals public money. What a shock. Next thing you know some one will catch Bill Clinton getting a blow job in the oval office or Hillary doing the nasty with one of her lesbians.

  18. Paolo

    Well, Mary, I hate to say it, but Doug is right, and you are wrong. There ain’t a dime’s worth of difference between the R’s and D’s. Both support a massive, intrusive central government in Washington that will eventually bankrupt us. The D’s support a few more massive programs that allegedly help “labor,” while the R’s support a few more massive programs that allegedly help “business.” So what? Get a clue, all of you! We’re not gonna vote ourselves into freedom; we need a revolution.

  19. Sandy Price

    Cover ups, money laundering for any good project is just as corrupt as if they were done for personal gain. It is time the congress set up their own rules for punishing any member of the house or senate when they break the rules.

    Doug is right, the left is as corrupt as the right. Whether money is used for religious lobbies or labor lobbies makes no difference.

    We have two years to come up with some kind of government that outlaws crimes! I can’t believe I said that, as it is so obvious!

    When I hear the religious right slamming us all for our lack of morals, I want to tell them to get out of the republican party and stop trying to legislate our morals. How many representatives can we honestly trust?

    The Ivy League universities do not teach ethics or morals so maybe we should be looking at junior colleges for our candidates.

    We have elected 100 Senators and nearly 500 Congressmen and how many are considered morally responsible?

    My ongoing question for the last 17 years is; when we elect Christians into our government are we to assume they have a smidgeon of a moral code? I have to say that in 2006, the answer was no! hell no! We must demand another agenda item to vote for, as being religious is not enough!

    I am disgusted with this Murtha mess and figure he has to be the dumbest man in America. Don’t any of them realize “we the people,” are watching?