Washington Babylon — August 21, 2008, 8:35 am

Congressman Murtha’s Racket: Pork and influence peddling or jobs and growth?

Several Pennsylvania residents wrote in about yesterday’s post on how lobbyists and defense contractors with ties to Congressman John Murtha have such extraordinary success winning earmarks out of his House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee.

One reader sent an email that said:

I’d just note that for all the millions flowing into the Johnstown area courtesy of Murtha, it’s not like the residents are rolling in dough; they might qualify for a factory or call-center job or something. But it’s not like Cambria County is the Silicon Valley of SW PA. On the other hand, Murtha is such a good ol’ boy and has so many people convinced that he’s bringing jobs to the area (admittedly, the employment picture there would be bleaker without his vacuum cleaner going) that he’ll never lose his seat.

The email came from a “Pittsburgh resident and employee of a high-tech company that’s sold a lot of gear and software to some of those Johnstown shops.”

Another reader, Tim, took a different view:

I’m not arguing about John Murtha’s character, but isn’t he ultimately helping his constituents by bringing employment opportunities to an economically depressed area? The government itself even eliminates some competition by setting up awards that can only go to companies operating in a depressed area. I grew up in the area of Argon’s main PA office and was hired shortly after finishing school at about the same time the facility opened. SW PA is losing people of my generation faster than any other area in the country due to the lack of employment opportunities. I would likely have left the area as well if I hadn’t been given the opportunity to work there. I can honestly say that Argon is very generous to their employees…Until there’s proof of Murtha profiting personally from these contract awards, it seems that he’s just doing his job by helping the people of his district.

For my part, I tend to agree with the first writer. I’m obviously not opposed to creating jobs in Murtha’s district, but earmarking has been completely corrupted. Awards are not based on merit, but simply on who has the best political connections.

When someone as ethically-challenged as Murtha gets involved, the process of winning earmarks is essentially reduced to legalized bribery: companies that are willing to hire the congressman’s pals as lobbyists and make big campaign donations get the most pork. Whether they are the best qualified company, whether the money is being well-spent and whether the jobs are good or not all become secondary questions.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

Commentary November 17, 2015, 6:41 pm

Shaky Foundations

The Clintons’ so-called charitable enterprise has served as a vehicle to launder money and to enrich family friends.

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

August 2016

Atlas Aggregated

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Origins of Speech

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Four in Verse

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Sigh and a Salute

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Four in Prose

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Don the Realtor

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
Martin Amis on the rise of Trump, Tom Wolfe on the origins of speech, Art Spiegelman on Si Lewen, fiction by Diane Williams, and more

In Havana, the past year has been marked by a parade of bold-faced names from the north — John Kerry reopening the United States Embassy; Andrew Cuomo bringing a delegation of American business leaders; celebrities ranging from Joe Torre, traveling on behalf of Major League Baseball to oversee an exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team, to Jimmy Buffett, said to be considering opening one of his Margaritaville restaurants there. All this culminated with a three-day trip in March by Barack Obama, the first American president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. But to those who know the city well, perhaps nothing said as much about the transformation of political relations between the United States and Cuba that began in December 2014 as a concert in the Tribuna Antiimperialista.

Illustration by Darrel Rees
Article
Don the Realtor·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"If you have ever wondered what it’s like, being a young and avaricious teetotal German-American philistine on the make in Manhattan, then your curiosity will be quenched by The Art of the Deal."
Photograph (detail) © Polly Borland/Exclusive by Getty Images
Article
The Origins of Speech·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"To Chomsky...every child’s language organ could use the 'deep structure,' 'universal grammar,' and 'language acquisition device' he was born with to express what he had to say, no matter whether it came out of his mouth in English or Urdu or Nagamese."
Illustration (detail) by Darrel Rees. Source photograph © Miroslav Dakov/Alamy Live News
Article
A Sigh and a Salute·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Si told me that various paintings had spoken to him, but he wished they had been hung closer together 'so they could talk to each other.' This observation planted a seed that would come to fruition years later in his mature work."
Artwork (detail) by Si Lewen
Article
El Bloqueo·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Amid the festivities and the flood of celebrities, it would be easy for Americans to miss that the central plank of the long-standing cold war against Cuba — the economic embargo — remains very much alive and well."
Photograph (detail) by Rose Marie Cromwell

Chances that a Republican man believes that “poor people have hard lives”:

1 in 4

A school in South Korea was planning to deploy a robot to protect students from unwanted seductions.

Nuremberg’s Neues Museum filed a criminal complaint against a 91-year-old woman who completed a crossword puzzle that was in fact a $116,000 piece of avant-garde Danish art.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Mississippi Drift

By

Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'

Subscribe Today