Media’s Love Affair With Congressman Murtha Also Ignores His Pork-Filled Present

As reported by NewsBusters here, the media’s current fascination with Rep. John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) completely ignores the decade of the ’90s when the congressman was a leading pork-barrel spender. Yet, maybe more curious, this love affair is thoroughly dismissing some rather recent earmarking that made the papers before Mr. Murtha became the media’s favorite anti-war spokesman.

Not the least of these articles was a front-page, 2,200 word expose in the June 13, 2005 Los Angeles Times by Ken Silverstein and Richard Simon. The headline set the tone: “Lobbyist's Brother Guided House Bill; A family member's ties to special interests raise questions in the case of Democrat John Murtha.” The crux of the article is that Murtha’s brother is a senior partner in a company called KSA Consulting. Said consulting firm received $20.8 million in defense contracts in 2004 (Times link expired):

“When Congress passed the $417-billion Pentagon spending bill last year, Rep. John P. Murtha, the top Democrat on the House defense appropriations subcommittee, boasted about the money he secured to create jobs in his Pennsylvania district.

“But the bill Murtha helped write also benefited at least 10 companies represented by a lobbying firm where his brother, Robert ‘Kit’ Murtha, is a senior partner, according to disclosure records, interviews and an analysis of the bill by The Times.

“Clients of the lobbying firm KSA Consulting -- whose top officials also include former congressional aide Carmen V. Scialabba, who worked for Rep. Murtha for 27 years -- received a total of $20.8 million from the bill.”

More recently, The Hill published an article on October 18, 2005 entitled “Defense cash focuses on lobbying: When industry does donate, Murtha is its favorite recipient.” In it, Congressman Murtha is depicted as the defense industry’s top target for campaign contributions:

“For the past three years, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), the ranking member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, has been the No. 1 beneficiary of defense campaign donations in the House and has not fallen below No. 3 for Congress as a whole.

“In fact, for just the 2006 cycle, Murtha ranks No. 1 overall, with $188,350 in donations from the defense industry. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) follows with $118,350.

“In 2004, Murtha ranked behind only President Bush and his Democratic opponent, Sen. John Kerry, in overall defense-industry contributions, with $284,750.

“During the 2002 election cycle, when Murtha was forced to campaign for his seat because of state redistricting that pitted him against a fellow congressman in the primary, he again scored No. 1 in all Congress, pulling in $309,299 in political donations from defense companies.”

Oddly, the only major media publication that appears willing to suggest that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes is Investor’s Business Daily. In an editorial today entitled “Will the Real Murtha Stand Up?” the paper states what few news agencies seem willing to:

“Contrary to popular opinion, Rep. John Murtha, the decorated ex-Marine who called for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, is no hawk. He may also soon be probed for misusing defense appropriations.”

The article ends:

“The newspaper Roll Call reported that there might be a House ethics committee investigation of Murtha's apparent improprieties. But is that possible now that Murtha has become the media's ‘hawk with a conscience?’ Come to think of it, could Murtha have been thinking about a possible ethics investigation when he decided to throw himself into the public limelight last week?”

With the “scandals” involving Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tennessee), and “Scooter” Libby garnering huge publicity, one has to wonder why Congressman Murtha’s transgressions are largely getting a pass.

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