Earmark disclosure isn’t going to do any good if members can designate a middle man to take funds, then distribute them to private companies. But that’s exactly what the Washington Post says Rep. John Murtha has been doing, and they’ve got documents to back them up:
A Pennsylvania defense research center regularly consulted with two “handlers” close to Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) as it collected nearly $250 million in federal funding through the lawmaker, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post and sources familiar with the funding requests. The center then channeled a significant portion of the funding to companies that were among Murtha’s campaign supporters.
The two advisers included a lobbyist for PMA Group, a firm with close ties to Murtha that is the subject of a federal investigation into whether it made illegal contributions by reimbursing donors to the Pennsylvania lawmaker and other members of Congress. The Electro-Optics Center also relied on advice from a longtime Murtha friend who now works on the congressman’s appropriations staff.
Federal agents are also exploring how the center obtained its funds after they received dozens of internal documents last year. It is unclear whether the records have become a central focus of the Justice Department’s probe, but they open a window into a largely hidden process in which powerful lawmakers can direct funds to pet projects.
I don’t think the Electro-Optics Center is unique in passing earmarked dollars on to private firms….