When John Murtha got in trouble in the 2008 election, he needed cash — badly. And that’s precisely how he got it, according to a Roll Call report today. Pork recipients flocked to their meal ticket when it looked as though accusing his constituents of being racist rednecks might actually lose Murtha an election, and a lobbying company run by a former Murtha staffer apparently coordinated the effort:
Facing a surprisingly tough re-election challenge in the closing days of his 2008 campaign, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) called on a well-established network of his earmarking beneficiaries to bail him out. And the defense industry contractors, several of whom had pulled down millions of dollars in Murtha earmarks in the 2009 defense spending bill, responded by flooding his coffers with what amounted to rescue cash.
The Defense appropriations cardinal’s more than $1 million haul in the last two weeks of the campaign included about $40,000 from employees of nine contractors that together received $60.6 million in targeted projects from Murtha last year, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission records and House Appropriations Committee documents.
Four of those companies are clients of the PMA Group Inc., a lobbying firm founded by a former top Murtha aide that has emerged in recent years as a leading source of the lawmaker’s campaign funds. Altogether, PMA employees and their clients contributed more than $110,000 in the final two weeks of the campaign. And while many of those outfits have operations in Murtha’s western Pennsylvania district, nine out of every 10 of their checks dropped in from outside the state.
PMA has made a business out of bundling Murtha donations and catering to his whims. Its clients get access to almost-unlimited pork from Murtha in exchange for campaign contributions, but PMA takes a holistic approach to keeping Elvis Murtha fed. The lobbying group also caters to Mrs. Murtha, funding her pet social projects with client donations, such as the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra, where PMA themselves have become a Silver Sponsor.
How has this worked out for PMA? About as well as you’d expect. In 2007, PMA got 17 earmarks for $65 million to its clients. In 2008, when pork austerity became a bigger issue, Murtha still got $28 million in nine earmarks for PMA clients. Four of those 2008 clients got $18 million of that money, and they ponied up $30,000 to Murtha in the final days of his last election (Argon ST, MTS Technologies Inc., DRS Technologies Inc. and Advanced Acoustic Concepts).
The big question for Murtha now is whether the federal investigation that raided the two Kuchera businesses last week might expand to include more of his pork recipients. Here’s hoping, because it’s obvious that Murtha’s for sale, and PMA essentially acts as his pimp.