Congressman John Murtha, the King of Congressional Pork Really knows how to “put it” to the FBI. 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.
Despite the FBI putting the Heat on Murtha and his PMA relationship, the Porkmeister is is still accepting money from PMA clients and still getting them earmarks:
Murtha draws donations from PMA clients
By Mike Soraghan
The FBI raiding a high-profile defense lobbying shop hasn’t stopped the powerful Pennsylvania Democrat from dealing with its former clients. He’s seeking earmarks for them and accepting campaign contributions from them.
Murtha, who chairs the Appropriations Defense subcommittee, on Tuesday reported receiving contributions from three former PMA clients for whom he requested earmarks in the pending appropriations bills. The contributions all came on the same day during the earmark vetting process.
PMA, run by former appropriations staffer Paul Magliocchetti, disintegrated earlier this year after the FBI raided the group’s Virginia headquarters. PMA specialized in lobbying for defense companies, and many of its clients were located in and around Murtha’s district. Since 2002, PMA Group and its clients have raised a total of about $1.7 million for Murtha, and Murtha obtained millions in earmarks for its clients.
None of the companies or Murtha is known to be under investigation. The three former PMA clients who contributed have sizable operations in Murtha’s district. Murtha has often emphasized the local connections of the defense firms for which he has requested earmarks.
A spokesman for Murtha said the the majority of the companies are from Murtha’s district and deliver “quality capabilities in naval torpedo defense, next generation precision airdrop, and counter-IED technologies to the Defense Department.”
“If I’m corrupt, it’s because I take care of my district,” Murtha recently told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
It is legal for those seeking earmarks to give contributions to the members who can grant them. Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), though, has repeatedly sought to pass legislation in the House calling for an internal investigation of the relationship between PMA campaign contributions and earmarks.
Campaign watchdogs say the contributions highlight the problems in allowing lawmakers to take money from people they can benefit financially.
“It raises questions about whether those earmarks are awarded because of good policy or as a reward,” said Meredith McGehee of the Campaign Legal Center. “It undermines confidence in government.”
Murtha’s campaign finance report, filed Tuesday, shows that Murtha got $5,000 from the political action committee of Advanced Acoustic Concepts Inc.; $2,400 from Terry Collins, president and chairman of Argon ST; and $1,400 from Alan J. Friedman, president and CEO of Planning Systems Inc.
Murtha is requesting $5 million for Advanced Acoustic Concepts for submarine navigation decision aids. The veteran lawmaker is asking for $8 million for Argon ST, to upgrade naval torpedo defense capabilities. For Planning Systems, Murtha is requesting $2.3 million for next-generation precision-airdrop capabilities.
Murtha also got contributions from two other former PMA clients, General Dynamics and MobilVox Inc., seeking earmarks through another congressional office.
He also got contributions from executives of KDH Defense Systems and Trident Systems. He has sought earmarks for the two companies, though they’re not PMA clients.
Murtha’s campaign filed the donations from each of the companies on March 4, the Wednesday after a large Friday-night fundraising event for Murtha at the Army-Navy Club in Arlington, Va.
Murtha holds at least two large fundraisers a year, one in early spring. Defense contractors and their lobbyists attend in force.
Advanced Acoustic Concepts and Argon ST are now represented by Flagship Government Relations — a firm founded by former PMA lobbyists, which has signed at least 11 of PMA’s former clients.
Another company with strong ties to both Murtha and PMA, Concurrent Technologies, also recently migrated to Flagship. Murtha was instrumental in Concurrent’s foundation. Concurrent officials made donations to Murtha this year, but Murtha did not make any earmark requests for the company this year. The company has been under the Pentagon inspector general’s scrutiny; its tax-exempt status came under congressional criticism several years go. Concurrent officials said that they are planning to reduce and eventually eliminate all earmarks directed to the company by Murtha.
Melissa Koloszar, a former PMA lobbyist and former chief of staff to Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), is the only former PMA lobbyist to donate to Murtha in the last quarter. She now is in the government relations office of MKG Consulting. None of the other former PMA lobbyists who now have their own lobbying outfits, such as Flagship, have yet donated to Murtha.
A notable absence from the donors’ list is Kuchera Industries, which also has run into its own FBI problems. But Jim Ervin, the head of Ervin Technical Associates — which represents Kuchera — donated $1,400 in March.