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Murtha's Good (or Bad) Company

The Center for Public Integrity has just put out a useful report showing that John Murtha's pattern of earmarking Pentagon dollars to defense contractors who give lots of money--or are represented by lobbyists who give lots of money--to his campaigns is pretty much par for the course on the defense appropriations subcommittee:

Now, a computer analysis by the Center for Public Integrity has revealed that fully three-quarters of the subcommittee members have been involved in similar patterns of behavior — in circles of relationships fraught with potential conflicts of interest, involving former congressional staffers-turned lobbyists, earmarks, and campaign cash. In these circles, former staffers became lobbyists for defense contractors; the contractors received earmarks from the representatives; and the representatives received campaign contributions from the lobbyists or the contractors.

One of the most frequent complaints I heard from people in Johnstown when I was there reporting this story on the Murtha scandals was that Murtha was getting heat for something that every Congressman does. In fact, the city is rife with conspiracy theories about who, exactly, is out to get Murtha. Depending on the political persuasion of the person you're talking to, the sinister forces who are pushing the Murtha scandal are: conservatives angry about Murtha's stand on Iraq; the Obama White House (and, espeically, Rahm Emanuel) who want sole say over the defense budget; or the media as a whole, which just needs something to cover. I'd imagine this report from the Center will only fuel those theories--since Murtha is obviously in good (or bad) company when it comes to earmarks.

Of course, I do think there's a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem here: when it comes to earmarks, the other members of the subcommittee are likely just following Murtha's lead and adopting a plan he's perfected.