For some time now I have planned to write about "Earmarks", a particularly odious practice that our legislators love to indulge in. This week, Democrat leader John Murtha, affectionately known to his colleagues as "The King of Pork", gave me a perfect lead-in. You see, "earmarks" are what our politicians like to call their practice of adding money (usually unneeded or wasteful money) to important bills. The rest of the world calls this "pork". Murtha inspired this piece by screaming at a Member of Congress on the floor of the House for daring to question one of his earmarks.
The new Democrat majority promised that they would "clean up" Washington, including reforming earmarks. But after almost eight months of the new regime it is clear that it is the same-old, same-old.
Earmarks, or pork, are a way that politicians can get money for their district or state for things that taxpayer money should not be spent on. Often the money is used to buy votes or line the pockets of the legislator or people close to him, such as family or business associates. Often the pork is illegal, as several politicians who are currently in jail and several who are being investigated can testify.
Although there are both Democrat and Republican "porkers", the Democrats have always been the worst offenders. And now that they are in the majority they have gotten even worse. John Campbell, a California Republican Congressman, has organized a group in Congress to stop pork-barrel spending. Although he acknowledges that both parties engage in this practice (and he has called members of both parties to task when they offend), he made it clear that every one of the reformers are Republicans. The Democrat party and leadership want no part of reforming earmarks. The pork gets them too many votes, not to mention the kickbacks.
John Murtha is the chairman of the powerful House Subcommittee on Defense Appropriations, which distributes the largest amount of money appropriated by Congress. In Congress it is well-known that if you want money for anything, you have to "see Murtha." People who "saw Murtha" (and presumably paid him appropriate homage, as is due to a King) got $3 BILLION dollars in pork added to the current defense spending bill. Over $150 Million of that money went to Murtha's small district in Pennsylvania. (See LINK below.) Murtha has delivered so much pork to his district that the local politicos have named a major highway and an airport after him.
The House is due to vote soon on this year's huge defense appropriations bill. It contains 1,337 earmarks, costing $3.07 billion. These 1,337 amendments should make every American furious, regardless of party or whether their district will benefit. This is not why we pay taxes!
Keith Ashdown of the watchdog organization Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) noted that the $3 Billion figure is derived from only the earmarks that the subcommittee disclosed at the back of the bill's report. He expects to find undisclosed projects as well (Congress is very good at hiding such things), so the true bill to taxpayers may be as much as double the amount Murtha has revealed. Steve Ellis, a vice president for TCS says his organization and other watchdog groups don't object to all earmarks. "But we're opposed to picking projects based on the size of the politician and not on the merits of the project."
Even though the subcommittee disclosed the project name, the requesting member, and the budget line in which the project was requested, it still tried to hide the important facts that taxpayers need to know. They did not disclose either the amount requested or the companies that would benefit. The report that accompanied the bill contained a chart listing projects and sponsors, but not the amounts of the earmark. So unless you are good at detective work, it is (deliberately) very difficult to see who the bad guys (the porkers requesting the earmarks) are.
Of course, most of the piggy earmarks have nothing to do with defense. Surprised? That's just the way things are done in Congress. The porkers get together and agree to vote for each other's earmarks. Then the legitimate bill is held hostage to the earmarks. No earmarks, no bill. I could go on for hours about totally unrelated items that get attached to bills. This is why the President should have what almost all Governors have - a Line Item Veto. This would allow him to sign a bill, but cut off ridiculous items such as the $2 Million Democrat Representative Charles Rangel wants to spend to establish the "Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service" at the City College of New York.
Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made sure she got her share of pork projects; 11 of them totaling $37.3 million. Democrat Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's haul was $26 million. And there were many Republicans slopping at the trough, as well, including the ranking Republican member of Murtha's sub-committee, Representative Bill Young of Florida. But no one even comes close to King Murtha in the area of taking the pork home.
Do you own a business that would like to get some fat government projects? You might consider moving the business to John Murtha's hometown, Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Murtha has gotten millions of dollars for companies that have moved into his district, single-handedly creating a booming economy in the area at the expense of millions of American taxpayers. Most times the money goes to companies moving into the district, not companies that were already there.
Many of the new firms are nothing more than storefront offices that serve as "headquarters" for companies that do most of their work elsewhere. Often Murtha's pork goes to start-up businesses, companies that would not be in business were it not for the federal money Murtha sends their way. I wonder who these companies will support in the next election, and what "favors", legal or otherwise, they owe to King Pork?
Investigative reporters have noticed an interesting pattern in the recipients of Murtha's handouts. I am sure that this is purely coincidental, but it appears that there is a lobbying firm that called KSA Consulting where Murtha's brother, Robert "Kit" Murtha, is a Senior Partner, and Carmen Scialabba, a Murtha congressional aide for 27 years, is a high-ranking officer. (See LINK below.)
Numerous news stories have detailed KSA's amazing success in getting taxpayer money for its clients. Here's the "coincidental" part: These clients are mainly small businesses that are either based in Johnstown, Pa., or have recently opened offices in Johnstown. According to news reports there are also significant numbers of companies that no longer exist and may be totally fictional. Not surprisingly, Ken Stalder, CEO of KSA, was shocked at the suggestion that there might be a connection between the Murtha money and the fact that most of his clients are based (or at least have token offices) in Johnstown.
Last June the Los Angeles Times reported that Murtha funneled over $20 million to ten clients of KSA Consulting. In one case, a KSA client that manufactures military vehicles was awarded a $1.7 million contract. This was three times the firm's entire sales for the previous year! One defense contractor based in Murtha's home state of Pennsylvania admitted to the Times that he hired KSA on the recommendation of a top Murtha aide.
Then there is the PMA Group. I found this information on a website called "The Twenty Most Corrupt Members of Congress" (see LINK below). Not surprisingly, Murtha topped the list.
Paul Magliocchetti founded the PMA Group after working for ten years for Murtha as a senior staffer on the Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Defense. In just a few years it has become one of the most prominent Washington defense lobbying firms. In the last two years PMA and twelve of its clients were in the top 20 contributors to Murtha. Together they gave over $250,000 to him. Not surprisingly, in the 2006 Defense appropriations bill, PMA clients received over 60 earmarks from Murtha, totaling almost $100 million.
Quoting from "The Twenty Most Corrupt Members of Congress": "House ethics rules prohibit members from taking any official actions for the prospect of personal gain for themselves or anyone else. In addition, Rule XXIII of the House Ethics Manual requires all members of the House to conduct themselves 'at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House.' By earmarking funds for companies represented by Kit Murtha and Paul Magliocchetti, Rep. Murtha has violated House rules."
There is far too much to the dirty business of earmarks to cover in one article. Next week I will continue on the subject, focusing on the intimidation and often outright blackmail that Murtha and others like him use to force newer and less powerful politicians to vote for his thievery. After you read next week's article, you will understand why some of the smartest people in this nation believe strongly in term limits. The longer people like Murtha remain in office, the more dirt they gather on others and the more money they pass out for future favors. Like the old Klansman, Robert Byrd, they stay in office so long that only the Grim Reaper can remove them.
You will be shocked when you read "The King of Pork - Part II" how easily a very small number of corrupt individuals can manipulate the entire Congress of the United States.
(PUBLISHER'S NOTE: We did a search for the words PORK and MURTHA and got 307,000 "hits". Here are just a few of them.)
Murtha Remains the King of Pork
Media's Love Affair With Murtha Ignores His Pork-Filled Career
Murtha Nabs $150M in Pork
Murtha: Pork and Ethics Issues Surface
EDITORIAL: Pork Lives: Murtha and the Democrats Must Reform Earmarks
Defense cash focuses on lobbying