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The City That Pork Built

In today's The Wall Street Journal, Tyler Grimm takes a trip to Johnstown, PA, where he reports despondently on the John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, which services roughly 30 people a day and has received over $130 million in federal assistance over the course of 20 years thanks to earmarking efforts of Representative John Murtha.

It's easy to condemn Murtha a corrupt pork-barreler. But as Jason Zengerle argues in his recent piece for The New Republic, Johnstown has become dependent on Murtha's earmarks and defense contracts. As the CEO of a local defense firm told Jason during his recent trip to Johnstown, “If there weren’t earmarks, this town would be dead.” The piece tracks Murtha's early career in the Congress, and how he saved his hometown as industry began to leave:

From his perch on the House Appropriations Committee, Murtha had, over the years, directed $2 billion in federal spending to his district. ... “I’m certainly a Republican ... and I don’t think Mr. Murtha and I would agree on everything,” Mark Pasquerilla, a Johnstown businessman who attended the fundraiser, later told me. But “on an economic-development level, he delivers.” In steel’s place, Murtha had become Johnstown’s economic engine, keeping it afloat with a steady stream of government cash that flowed to the city’s private businesses, its hospitals, even its airport--which, like so many things in Johnstown, now bore his name. Murtha was not just Johnstown’s congressman; he was its savior.

With Murtha under investigation for corruption charges, the possibility of the city surviving without him is uncertain.

Click here to Jason Zengerle's piece.