Amidst all of the recent moral and ethical corruption scandals in Congress comes news of what appears to be even more patently dishonest behavior. Representative John “Jack” Murtha (D-PA) holds one of the most powerful positions in the House of Representatives, Chairman of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee. As such, he controls enormous amounts of taxpayer dollars and can distribute them to whom he pleases under the appropriations system Congress uses to fund projects in Congressional districts. And whom, specifically, does it please Murtha to reward with earmarks? Why, his political donors, of course!
Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, recently reported that every private entity Murtha favored with an earmark in this year’s defense bill has given money to his campaign in the last two years. Political Action Committees (PACs) and employees of the 26 groups in Murtha’s district that received Federal monies have contributed $413,250 to him, $100,750 of which was donated in the two weeks leading up to March 16, the original deadline for lawmakers to file their earmark requests.
Murtha rewarded these groups for their political contributions by allocating $114.5 million to them.
Representative Norm Dicks (D-WA), who is also on the Defense Subcommittee, likewise received some political money from each one of the private entities for which he helped secure Federal taxpayers’ dollars.
Nor are these two alone. Most other members of the 15-person panel recently pocketed campaign donations from the majority of groups for which they earmarked projects this year, according to ROLL CALL. Representatives Bud Cramer (D-AL), Bill Young (R-FL) and David Hobson (R-OH) each received campaign donations from all but one or two of the private groups to whom they earmarked Federal funds.
What happened to the Democrats’ pledge to rid Congress of the “culture of corruption” instituted, they claimed, by the Republicans? It appears they have been bought off, or at least Representative Murtha and some of his colleagues have.
This is very serious. Lawmakers are distributing millions of taxpayer dollars to reward private groups which donate to their political campaigns. As Murtha’s case shows, the monetary rewards for cutting a Congressman a check are quite lucrative. What we have here borders on bribery. Those who give are rewarded; those who do not give to political campaigns are not.
What we need is real reform in Congress. It will require a courageous individual or individuals to take on the deeply entrenched political and monetary interests currently controlling Congress. That said, an excellent place to being a reformation would be to eliminate all earmarks. Eliminating earmarks would require great restraint and self-control on the part of our elected officials, something the many recent scandals have demonstrated is dearly lacking in the Halls of Congress. But it is essential to the integrity of the American government that earmarks be eliminated
In the meantime, the Justice Department ought to take a closer look at Representative Murtha and others who clearly appear to trade taxpayer dollars for political favors.