Earlier in the week, we noted that Rep. John Murtha’s taxpayer-funded empire was becoming a family affair with the hiring of his nephew, Col. Brian Murtha, as a lobbyist for the Marines on Capitol Hill.
Now the Washington Post has put the spotlight on another nephew, Brian’s brother Robert, who owns a company called Murtech. Carol D. Leonnig and Alice Crites reported on May 5:
…last year, Murtech received $4 million in Pentagon work, all of it without competition, for a variety of warehousing and engineering services. With its long corridor of sparsely occupied offices and an unmanned reception area, Murtech’s most striking feature is its owner — Robert C. Murtha Jr., 49. He is the nephew of Rep. John P. Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who has significant sway over the Defense Department’s spending as chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee.
Robert Murtha said he is not at liberty to discuss in detail what his company does, but for four years it has subsisted on defense contracts, according to records and interviews.
The front-page Post story on nephew Robert follows two Post stories on the John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport. Leonnig wrote on April 19:
The John Murtha airport sits on a windy mountain two hours east of Pittsburgh, a 650-acre expanse of smooth tarmac, spacious buildings, a helicopter hangar and a National Guard training center.
Inside the terminal on a recent weekday, four passengers lined up to board a flight, outnumbered by seven security staff members and supervisors, all suited up in gloves and uniforms to screen six pieces of luggage. For three hours that day, no commercial or private planes took off or landed. Three commercial flights leave the airport on weekdays, all bound for Dulles International Airport.
The key to the airport’s gleaming facilities — and, indeed, its continued existence — is $200 million in federal funds in the past decade and the powerful patron who steered most of that money here. Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) is credited with securing at least $150 million for the airport. It was among the first in the country to win funding from this year’s stimulus package: $800,000 to repave a backup runway.
And as detailed by Leonnig on April 30, the Airport to Nowhere also benefits from defense spending:
At the behest of Rep. John P. Murtha (D), chairman of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, the Pentagon has spent about $30 million equipping the little-used airport named for him so it can handle behemoth military aircraft and store combat equipment for rapid deployment to foreign battlefields.
Most of the improvements, funded through appropriations approved by Murtha’s panel, have not been used for their intended purpose. The projects delighted National Guard and reserve units based in Murtha’s Pennsylvania district that have seen budget cuts, but critics charge that the expenditures have been a waste of taxpayer dollars.
The May 5 Washington Post story by Carol D. Leonnig has generated some reaction from former collegues of Robert Murtha. They have even handed over to the Post some documents undermining Murtha’s claim that Uncle John has nothing to do with his success in getting no-bid contracts.
Today, Leonnig reports:
Some former business associates and employees told The Washington Post they thought the role played by Robert Murtha’s companies was unnecessary.
Jeff Curtis, an engineer who worked for Robert Murtha’s company in 2001, contacted The Post to say that he and some co-workers did virtually no work on a project to make kits to test for biological agents. Curtis said he remains “furious” that taxpayer dollars were wasted.
“I was always thinking, ‘Why is the government paying this company?’ ” said Curtis, 29, now doing engineering work in North Carolina. “If it’s fair to have this kind of no-bid work, I’ll start a company and do it for half as much. Because this company didn’t do anything.”
In e-mails obtained by The Post, Robert Murtha told a business partner in 2001 that there were conditions for “keeping funds flowing.” Part of the federal work, he said, must be channeled to Johnstown, Pa., his uncle’s hometown.
“This has been a requirement for what I do to get dollars through,” Robert Murtha wrote in an e-mail to a senior company official with National Micrographic Services Imaging Inc. of Silver Spring, the lead contractor on a project to produce biological weapons test kits.
Hmm…flowing funds through Murtha’s district sounds familiar. In fact, that’s what Uncle John himself suggested to an FBI agent who posed as a lawyer for the nonexistant “Sheik Abdul” during the Abscam sting operation in 1980. Click here to watch Murtha exlpain it during the unedited 54-minute video recording of the FBI’s meeting with Murtha.