Commentary Magazine


Most Ethical Ever?

The newest development in the corruption scandal enveloping House Democrats, including Rep. Jim Moran and Rep. Jack Murtha, was the sending of subpoenas to Murtha’s ally, Rep. Pete Visclosky of Indiana. The core of the story is simple: PMA, a now disbanded lobbying outfit, used “straw” donors to steer hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash to Murtha and his congressional allies. In turn, they rewarded PMA’s clients with millions in earmarks. Kuchera Defense, one of Murtha’s favorite earmark-recipients, has been disbarred as a contractor for alleged fraud.

So what is Nancy Pelosi, who promised the most ethical congress ever and vowed to drain the swamp of corruption, doing? Hanging tough, according to Politico:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a close Murtha friend and political ally, has remained tightlipped about him as well. One Democrat says Pelosi “won’t even discuss” Murtha and “won’t even consider” any move to replace him as the head of the Defense Subcommittee.

Meanwhile, Murtha glad-handed with the recipients of his largess at a local trade show for defense contractors — which, lo and behold, takes place in his hometown. This report is eye-opening:

Mr. Murtha is treated like a god throughout the two-day event, with contractors literally bending down almost on their knees to talk to him. He is forced often to sit, due to recent knee surgery. That ended at a brief news conference Friday morning.

His office had just announced $110 million in federal contract awards to local firms, but a reporter wanted to get his reaction to the federal investigation of Kuchera Defense Systems, which is among the congressman’s biggest campaign contributors. The imposing, white-maned 76-year-old flashed some righteous anger.

“So what’s that got to do with me?” the 6-foot-6-inch former Marine replied. “What do you think, I oversee these companies? That’s the Defense Department’s job. That’s not my job. You guys write these stories [but] you don’t have a clue what this is all about.”

“Jesus Christ,” he exclaimed, then left out a back door.

This is the face of the “most ethical Congress” ever — and what Pelosi is doggedly defending? If it seems all eerily reminiscent of past partisan scandals — with a recalcitrant Speaker defending her troops and seemingly oblivious to the impact on the party’s fortunes – it is. How different from Jack Abramoff is it, really? Pelosi and her troops have, like the Bourbons of old, remembered everything and learned nothing. In 2010 we will see if there is a price to be paid for ethical obtuseness.