FEBRUARY 10, 2009
Federal agents have raided a defense lobbying firm founded by a top congressional aide who specializes in getting clients hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks from his former boss.
It marks the second FBI raid on a company with close ties to Pennsylvania Representative John Murtha, according to the news organization that broke the story this week. The veteran Democrat lawmaker, who has served more than three decades in the House, chairs the powerful Defense Appropriations subcommittee and has long been labeled one of the nation’s most corrupt politicians for his unethical relationship with a handful of contractors.
For years the companies have benefited from huge Murtha earmarks as well as lucrative no-bid government contracts and, in turn, the congressman has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from their top executives and employees.
The Virginia-based lobbying firm (PMA Group) recently raided by the FBI was founded by Murtha’s former aide (Paul Magliochetti) and is well known for obtaining hefty taxpayer earmarks for its clients. In 2008 alone, Murtha helped PMA Group clients—many of them his political contributors—get nearly $300 million in earmarks. As a result, PMA Group raked in close to $14 million in fees from the firms.
The other company (Kuchera Defense Systems) also under federal investigation received more than $100 million in Murtha earmarks. Besides the firm’s offices, authorities also searched the owner’s home.
Scandal is nothing new for Murtha. The veteran lawmaker was involved in one of the nation’s biggest congressional scandals (Abscam), which ended in the bribery and conspiracy convictions of one senator and five House members.
Undercover FBI agents posed as Middle Eastern businessmen and attempted to bribe federal lawmakers in return for political favors for a fictional Arab sheik. Murtha was caught on FBI video tape showcasing his political influence, eager to arrange a deal with the fake Arab sheiks and tempted to take a $50,000 bribe.
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