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A few months ago, the FBI raided the offices of the PMA group, founded by a Murtha aide, and one of the Pork King’s favorite Lobbying firm. What they found out is that Murtha and his buddies at PMA Group operated their own little Earmark Factory. A recent report, the FBI may be zeroing in on the relationship between Murtha and PMA. But that hasn’t slowed the Pork King down. He posted on his site a list of $134 Million Dollars of earmarks that he is requesting, $20 Million of it to clients of PMA, the very firm that is being investigated.
This is making the Democrats a bit nervous. Among the defense projects being cut from the budget are many championed by Murtha.

In a recent meeting with Secretary Gates, Mr. Murtha pushed a plan to divide a $35 billion contract to build a new airborne refueling tanker between two rival contractors — a compromise that pleases both but would cost the government much more. Mr. Gates listened with little response, several people briefed on their conversation said, but he later came out firmly against it.


“I’ve had conversations with Congressman Murtha,” Mr. Gates said in a briefing at the Pentagon this month. “I still believe that it is not the best deal for the taxpayer, to go with a split buy.”

The Pork King always gets his way, especially from a democratic administration.  It looks that Mutha’s antics are making fellow democrats edge away from Nancy Pelosi’s attack dog:

House Heavyweight Feels Threat to Power
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK


WASHINGTON — So powerful was Representative John P. Murtha at one time that he used to put up billboards in his Western Pennsylvania district declaring that “the P is for Power.” Few in Congress dared disagree: he doled out or withheld billions in federal money each year for lawmakers’ pet projects, better known as earmarks.


Now, however, a string of federal criminal investigations of contractors or lobbyists close to Mr. Murtha, the top Democrat on the defense appropriations subcommittee, are threatening to undermine his backroom clout.


In the weeks since the news that prosecutors had raided the offices of the PMA Group — a lobbying firm founded by a former Murtha associate that became a gateway to his office and his biggest source of campaign money — about two dozen rank-and-file Democrats have risked his wrath by calling for a House ethics investigation of the matter. One Democrat has even foresworn seeking earmarks for the military contractors in his district because of ethical concerns about the process.


In a private meeting with the chairman of the House appropriations committee, Mr. Murtha, the unofficial leader of the “old bulls” who oversee the subcommittees, was forced to accept a series of new restrictions on his authority to grant earmarks, Democratic aides briefed on the meeting said. In previous weeks he had already acquiesced to another steep cut in the volume of earmarks he dispenses, down by half this year from a few years ago. He had also accepted new disclosure requirements, including public hearings, that cramp his ability to cut last-minute deals.


Now Mr. Murtha lost another fight to block a new rule requiring competitive bidding on earmarked contracts. Furthermore, one of his usual lieutenants — Representative Peter J. Visclosky, Democrat of Indiana and member of the defense subcommittee who is chairman of the energy and water panel — unexpectedly switched sides to back the new restrictions, perhaps because he too is under new scrutiny for his ties to the PMA Group.


“Whatever the hell it is, we will work our way through it,” Mr. Murtha groused after the meeting to the Capitol Hill publication Roll Call.


While past presidents often courted Mr. Murtha with phone calls and private meetings, President Obama has extended to him no such courtesies. On a visit to the White House, the lawmaker told senior defense officials that it would be “foolish” and “ridiculous” to cancel all of a $13 billion contract to buy new presidential helicopters, as he later recounted to a defense industry newsletter. But Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has insisted on scrapping the deal as a symbol of waste.


And in a recent meeting with the secretary, Mr. Murtha pushed a plan to divide a $35 billion contract to build a new airborne refueling tanker between two rival contractors — a compromise that pleases both but would cost the government much more. Mr. Gates listened with little response, several people briefed on their conversation said, but he later came out firmly against it.


“I’ve had conversations with Congressman Murtha,” Mr. Gates said in a briefing at the Pentagon this month. “I still believe that it is not the best deal for the taxpayer, to go with a split buy.”


Even among donors, mainly defense interests, Mr. Murtha’s standing appears to be slumping. His first-quarter campaign contributions were down by half from the same period after his previous re-election — to about $225,000, he reported this month.


“Even if he himself is not accused of anything, the investigations have to weaken Mr. Murtha,” said Loren B. Thompson, chief operating officer for the nonpartisan Lexington Institute and a consultant to several military contractors. “He is under an ethical cloud and that is going to make it harder for him to maintain power.”


Mr. Murtha, who declined to be interviewed, has brushed off such concerns. He has said publicly that federal prosecutors have not contacted him about any investigations. At 76, he returned to Congress on Wednesday, two weeks after knee-replacement surgery, with a new symbol of both his power and his vulnerability: a heavy wooden walking stick topped by a six-inch gold knob, a gift from the Marine commanding officer.


Mr. Murtha has continued his spring tradition of summoning military lobbyists to a big-ticket fund-raising breakfast just as he begins to oversee the year’s military spending bill. And he has vowed to continue steering military contracts to his constituents. “If I am corrupt,” he recently told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “it is because I take care of my district.”


Other Democrats winced at his words. Reports of the PMA investigation coincided with the news that federal agents had also raided Kuchera Industries, a Johnstown, Pa., company built on Mr. Murtha’s patronage whose owners held fund-raisers for him on their private game ranch. The Justice Department is also investigating the Concurrent Technologies Corporation, a nonprofit government contractor based in Johnstown that was founded by Mr. Murtha, nurtured by his earmarks and represented by PMA lobbyists.


After news of the raid, Representative Steve Israel, a New York Democrat who sits on the appropriations committee, said publicly that he would no longer seek earmarks for private companies. That mainly means military contracts because most other earmarks flow to government agencies or nonprofit groups.


“We are operating under a cloud,” Mr. Israel said in an interview, “and until those concerns are addressed and reform measures are fully in place and we know that they are working, I won’t even consider entertaining corporate requests.”


About two dozen House Democrats, meanwhile, have voted with Republicans to call for the House ethics committee to investigate the link between earmarks and campaign money.


On Wednesday, three Democrats introduced their own bill to bar lawmakers from accepting contributions from those who receive their earmarks. “You shouldn’t be exchanging campaign contributions for earmarks,” said Representative Tom Perriello of Virginia.


This week, Fred Wertheimer, a veteran advocate for stricter ethics rules, and others are expected to formally ask the ethics committee to investigate Mr. Murtha, a handful of other lawmakers close to him, and the possibility that they traded earmarks for contributions and other benefits from the PMA Group.


Meanwhile, shortly after the PMA investigation become public, more than 100 lobbyists and contractors lined up in late February to shake Mr. Murtha’s hand in the receiving line at his annual breakfast fund-raiser at the Army-Navy Country Club in Arlington, Va. Many lobbyists say they consider it obligatory. (Susan O’Neill, Mr. Murtha’s chief fund-raiser, rounded up lobbyists last year with an e-mail message that all but suggested the chairman would take attendance.)


About 25 companies received more than $100 million in Mr. Murtha’s earmarks in the current military bill while their executives contributed more than $350,000 to his campaign, most of it in the spring.


Only one business appears to have received an earmark without any of its executives or lobbyists making a contribution last year: Pittsburgh Electric Engines Inc. of Mount Pleasant, Pa., whose founder, Owen Taylor, gave Mr. Murtha a total of $1,000 in previous years. He declined to discuss how he won the lawmaker’s support.

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