Update -- It was reported yesterday that Congressman Visclosky will relinquish his Chair of the House Energy-Water Appropriations Subcommittee while the grand jury investigation into PMA goes on. If you remember subpoenas were served to Visclosky for records at his Congressional office and campaign.
The circling around Congressman John Murtha (D-PA) by Federal investigators and the news media continues and some of the pressure is obviously getting to him. Murtha has used Federal earmarks, especially defense ones, for years to build an economic base for his district. One of his former staffers formed a lobbyist group called PMA that has now disbanded after being targeted by the Department of Justice. People who used this group suddenly were able to get earmarks from Murtha and other Congressmen, like Peter Visclosky (D-IN). He serves with Mr. Murtha on a defense appropriations subcommittee.
Friday two more shoes dropped in this continuing case of abuse of the taxpayers money. First during a trade show that Murtha holds for defense contractors to get more business for his district it was announced that Kuchera Companies a company that was started by Murtha's friends and showered him with campaign donations and received many earmarks was banned from doing business with the Department of Defense. The company is under investigation for misuse of government funds and possible illegal campaign donations. Murtha when asked about this defended himself by saying "What do you think -- I'm supposed to oversee these companies? That's not my job. That's the Defense Department's job." It had to be embarrassing for him and he hurriedly left the news conference when questions were asked about the second thing that happened.
It was also announced yesterday that Mr. Visclosky's office and person were subpoenaed to provide documents related to the PMA Group. Mr. Visclosky has lawyered up and it was questions about whether Murtha had done the same that caused him to walk out. PMA is accused of using straw donors where to get around limits donations are made in people's name not using their money or not as they intended too. Viscolsky has made efforts to separate himself from the investigation but Murtha has not being very defiant about his use of earmarks and relationships to the companies involved.
Unfortunately the House led by Nancy Pelosi has failed to act every time House Republicans have introduced legislation calling for an investigation. The House ethics committee is also struggling to establish itself and do any real work. The Republicans only hope is to work on convincing enough conservative or new Democratic representatives to support their bill. That is of course unless they take back the house in 2010.
This story is obviously not going away and there will be continued scrutiny of Murtha and his colleagues by the media as it has all the facets that make a good story abut government corruption.
For more on this issue see these earlier posts: