Congressman Jack Murtha is one of the most influential powerbrokers in Washington.
According to an estimate by Taxpayers for Common Sense, he's steered more than $600 million in earmarks to his Pennsylvania district in the past four years and $2 billion since 1992. But what's been good for Murtha and his district is not always good for taxpayers.
Top defense lobbyists recently flocked to a high-priced fundraiser at the Ritz in Virginia, all for Congressman John Murtha, the head of the House committee on military spending. This year alone, Murtha gave out nearly $160 million dollars in earmarks -- grants of money without the normal public review.
"Every private entity that received an earmark from Rep. Murtha gave him a contribution. A campaign contribution," Ryan Alexander for Taxpayers for Common Sense told CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.
Murtha helped set up the non-profit Concurrent Technologies in his hometown of Johnstown, Pa. Among the things they do is help others get federal money. They should know, they get $200 million in federal grants each year.
Murtha alone doled out nearly $12 million in earmarks to Concurrent this year. Concurrent pays big bucks to PMA, a lobby firm started by a former Murtha committee staffer. Both and Concurrent employees give generously to Murtha's campaigns.
More mysterious is Murtha's million-dollar earmark to the "The Center for Instrumented Critical Infrastructure."
"We don't even know if it even exists," says anti-earmark Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ).
Back in July 2007, Flake had questions when he found no record of the Center. Murtha wasn't there, so a colleague spoke for him.
The response to the question of whether the Center actually exists came from Congressman Pete Visclosky, D-Ind.: "At this time I do not know. But if it does not exist, the money cannot go to it."
Congressman Murtha wouldn't tell CBS News if the Center exists... or agree to an interview.
His most notorious project is the government agency that the government doesn't want: The National Drug Intelligence Center, also in Murtha's hometown. Every year the White House tries to close it because they already have a Drug Intelligence Center. But Murtha keeps the duplicate open using half-a-billion dollars in earmarks.
"You want to drive a stake through its heart but you can't," says Leslie Paige for Citizens Against Government Waste. "Because Congressman Murtha continues to put this in."
Murtha's power plays are no surprise to those who've followed him since the 1980s bribery scandal known as ABSCAM. An undercover tape shows him bragging about his power, saying, "I've got as much influence in that goddamned Congress with the leadership and the White House as anyone in Congress... I know the right people and I know the system."
Three decades later, Murtha not only knows the system; he's mastered it.
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