This article from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette discussing how Federal grant to upgrade police equipment for Monongahela, PA from Congressman Murtha shows how even little pieces of money add up. It is starting to emerge that a company MountainTop Technologies located in Murtha's hub of Johnstown and started by a friend and donor was used to manage thirty-six million dollars in various Federal earmarks for law enforcement, medicine and defense since 2001.
In Monongahela the grant was for just $15,000 which amazingly enough was just small enough not to require review by the city council. The money went directly into a police account and was directed to a company run by the son of the former Mayor. The city requires multiple bids on all contacts over $10,000 but the grant was broken up into amounts less then this so only one bid was required. While it is all circumstantial there could be an accusation that efforts were made to minimize the levels of review of this money. The other interesting thing is all this was done for fifteen thousand dollars.
MountainTop Technologies is being criticized because it is a company with no experience in these matters and has received pretty much non-competitive directed contracts. There is also issues as there is no real requirement for the company to handle these grants. They could just as effectively flow directly from the Federal government to the towns. Of course MountainTop has to take a portion of the grant for administrative expenses and fees. The company is now being investigated by the Justice Department.
The company has received a diverse group of contracts from the Defense and Justice departments. Only eleven percent of its wins have been with contracts with another bidder. The other eighty-nine percent of their contracts have been directed earmarks. This is easy to do as the Representative or Senator writes the earmark in such a way that only one company can do it. For example by stressing a geographic area and skill that restricts the contract to limited or no competition.
Mr. Murtha has used Federal tax monies to build up quite an industrial base in Pennsylvania. From a counter drug intelligence center that duplicates work done elsewhere that recently again there was an attempt to close to a variety of defense contractors like MountainTop. His brother and former staffers have worked as lobbyists and get contracts from the companies he sends earmarks to. His nephew's company and previous employers got earmarks as well. To date the Democratic leadership has failed to carry out any investigations by Congress, and may not. Unlike ABSCAM or Randy Cunningham unless evidence exists of direct bribery or quid-pro-quo there is nothing that Murtha has done to warrant criminal charges.
It also appears that Murtha is not going to be embarrassed by all this. He feels that he is helping his district by directing these funds to it. Certainly it is an economically depressed area, but that does not justify doing end runs around the proper processes and procedures for spending Federal dollars. This story also won't go away as major media outlets like the Washington Post and New York Times keep digging.