SureFire

Rep. John Murtha Dead at 77

Rep John MurthaU.S. Rep. John P Murtha from Pennsylvania’s 12th District died today of complications from gallbladder surgery at a Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Va. He was 77.

An officer in the Marine Reserves, he became the first Vietnam War combat veteran elected to Congress in 1974. He served for two decades as the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Appropriations subcommittee where he was able to garner a great number of earmarks that attracted numerous defense contractors to his District.

Murtha joined the Marines in 1952 eventually serving as a drill instructor at Parris Island, S.C. After his discharge Murtha moved home to Johnstown, PA and remained with the Marine Reserves until he volunteered to go to Vietnam. There, he served as an intelligence officer there from 1966 to 1967 and received a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts. In 1990, he retired from the Marine Reserves as a Colonel. Ironically, he later drew criticism from many service members for accusing Marines of murdering Iraqi civilians “in cold blood” at Haditha, Iraq in 2006.

His degree in Economics from the University of Pittsburgh earned in 1962 apparently came in handy. He barely survived the Abscam scandal by the skin of his teeth and for some reason campaign contributors seemed to regularly enjoy healthy earmarks.

During the Abscam corruption probe the FBI caught him on videotape in a 1980 sting operation turning down a $50,000 bribe offer while holding out the possibility that he might take money in the future. “We do business for a while, maybe I’ll be interested and maybe I won’t,” Murtha said on the tape. In the Government’s case six Congressmen and one Senator were convicted. Although he was not charged, he was named as an unindicted co-conspirator and he testified against two other Congressmen.

However, his involvement with the lobbying firm specializing in defense contractors, the PMA Group has garnered his most recent attention. During 2007 and 2008, Murtha and two fellow Democrats on the appropriations subcommittee directed $137 million to defense contractors who were paying PMA to get them government business. Between 1989 and 2009, Murtha received more than $2.3 million in campaign contributions from PMA’s lobbyists and corporate clients, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Shortly after the 2008 election, the FBI raided PMA’s offices as part of a criminal investigation but Murtha himself has now escaped any investigations into wrongdoing.

Many of my readers will recall that Murtha is behind the current Afghanistan Camouflage testing being conducted by the Army. After speaking with several Army NCOs he challenged the Army to investigate more effective camo patterns for use in Afghanistan. The Army was supposed to have rendered a decision by now but it has been inexplicably delayed.

Rep Murtha will be remembered as much for his service as his challenged sense of ethics. I wonder how his passing will effect the defense contractors in his district.

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