Accusations of corruption directed against the late Congressman John Murtha (D-PA) look like they were true. Recently released files seem to confirm that the Federal Bureau of Investigation suspected that Murtha schemed to route federal dollars to bogus companies and other operations that would benefit his friends and former employees and ultimately his own campaigns.
As reported by Paul Singer in Roll Call, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Justice on Mr. Murtha (who passed away in February of 2010) and other Members of Congress. CREW’s requests for the files from living Members of Congress were rejected as the Department stated that these Members have a right to privacy. However, Murtha’s death did allow for files to be handed over to CREW as his passing eliminated any exemption for Murtha. CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan told Roll Call that they received a large number of heavily redacted files on October 14th of this year.
The information gathered in the files shows long and convoluted connections between Congressman Murtha, his former staff members, and even his brother, with nonprofit organizations and Washington, DC lobbying groups and defense contractors. Many of the pieces of this story date back a number of years and have been reported in numerous publications like the Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Roll Call and others.
In fact, National Legal and Policy Center Chairman Ken Boehm said, “It’s no surprise to us that the FBI was looking at Rep. Murtha’s relationships with questionable defense contractors. Our group investigated Murtha’s dealings and provided information as well as a key witness to both the FBI and to the late Wall Street Journal reporter, John Wilke. The Wall Street Journal ran a front page story by Mr. Wilke in 2007 describing how Murtha used his position to enrich his political supporters”, Boehm noted.
Boehm also added, “Anyone who doubts Murtha’s corrupt ways can view the FBI sting video, part of the Abscam scandal, in which a cagey Murtha is discussing ‘doing business’ with an FBI agent posing as a lawyer for a rich Arab. While he did not take the bait, a $50,000 stack of cash, Murtha assured the agent, ‘I do business like this all the time'”.
The FBI investigation also suggested that a Murtha staffer may have failed to disclose thousands of dollars in income and assets on disclosure forms and that campaign money from Murtha’s committee may have been used to buy guns for the use of another Murtha staff member. It also appears that some staff members may have violated the one-year ban on lobbying the congressman’s office after departing his staff.