U.S. Rep. John Murtha is unapologetic for his liberal use of congressional earmarks for projects in his district even though his efforts have branded him "one of the most corrupt members of Congress."
The Johnstown Democrat, who has been in the House of Representatives for 35 years, says his job is to make sure federal funds find their way to his district and that, "if I'm corrupt, it's because I take care of my district."
In his characteristically blunt manner, Mr. Murtha dismisses the derisive label attached to him by the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, as well as other critics of earmarking and political influence. He says if Congress wasn't funneling federal dollars to projects chosen by members, bureaucrats in Washington would be doing it instead.
Sure, plenty of people in Johnstown are grateful, but Mr. Murtha's insistence that this is how the process must work misses the reality that his constituents deserve to have their tax dollars spent on projects that have proven their value through competitive bidding and impartial evaluation. A view that the ends justify the means leaves too many questions: Are the projects necessary? Is the method of selection fair? Are political contributors the real winners?
Political watchdogs are not the only ones asking questions about the beneficiaries of Mr. Murtha's influence. In January, federal agents raided Kuchera Industries, a Cambria County start-up that had been struggling until it became the recipient of defense contracts. Three months ago, the FBI raided the office of Paul Magliocchetti, the founder of a lobbying firm that has been one of Mr. Murtha's biggest sources of campaign contributions. And a year ago, agents subpoenaed records from a subsidiary of Concurrent Technologies Corp., the non-profit that manages a research and technology center in Johnstown founded with Murtha earmarks in 1991 and kept running on millions in federal contracts since.
In the case of the National Defense Center for Environmental Excellence, effectiveness has been questionable. A Washington Post report last year said its work had not been widely utilized by the Defense Department, as intended, and Pentagon audits showed that systems it developed have not had widespread application.
Mr. Murtha's constituents wouldn't want to read about under-performing federal dollars earmarked for other House districts. We disagree with him that Western Pennsylvanians are filled with pride when questionable government spending comes their way.