Pork king John Murtha hasn’t gotten much good news lately, and it may start getting a lot worse. The Navy has cut ties with Kuchera Defense Systems], a contractor with deep ties to Murtha. The move signals that the allegations of corruption and misconduct may have more credibility than the Pennsylvania Democrat wants to publicly admit (via William Amos):
A Pennsylvania defense contractor to whom Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., directed millions of dollars in congressional earmarks has been blocked from doing business with the Navy amid allegations of fraud.
Word of the suspension comes during an annual defense contractor trade show in Johnstown, Pa., the heart of Murtha’s congressional district. 7 of the world’s largest defense contractors, who have been among Murtha’s biggest campaign contributors over the years, are helping to bankroll this week’s “Showcase for Commerce.”
That’s not all they’ve been bankrolling. The firm got raided in January in connection to a federal probe into pay-for-play allegations involving the relationship between defense contractors and members of Congress. That expanded to include PMA, a lobbying firm started by former Murtha aide Paul Maggliochetti, which got raided in February. That appears to have more targets than just Murtha, though, as PMA has supplied funds for more than a dozen members of Congress who got earmarks for PMA clients.
All of this attention has brought a new challenge to Murtha’s power — this time from Democrats. For the first time in quite a while, Murtha will have a primary fight:
The veteran Pennsylvania Democrat, well-known for his opposition to the Bush Administration’s decision to wage war in Iraq and for steering federal dollars to his mostly blue-collar district in southwestern Pennsylvania, will be opposed next spring by Ryan Bucchianeri, a Harvard-educated former naval officer who’s embarking on his first campaign for office.
Bucchianeri was unavailable for an interview Thursday, citing a full schedule. But he did e-mail CQ Politics a biography and a news release that said he “intends to put his life experiences and education as a U.S. naval officer, businessman, and veteran to good use for Pennsylvanians and in Congress.” A son of educator parents, Bucchianeri identified education as one of many policy issues of interest.
Normally, one would expect an incumbent with Murtha’s political connections to easily stave off a primary challenge. However, PMA won’t be riding to Murtha’s rescue like they did last October, and few would want to prompt a federal investigation by replacing Magliochetti as Murtha’s political sugar daddy now. Even if he survives the primary challenge — his first since 1990, and only the second of his re-election campaigns — the damage to Murtha’s campaign chest bodes ill for Democratic hopes of holding the seat.