JW Files Lawsuit against FBI for Documents on Late John Murtha’s “Lack of Ethics and His Abuse of Office for More than 25 Years”
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for stonewalling the release of documents regarding the late Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha’s long history of allegedly corrupt behavior, including his connection to the ongoing FBI probe of a congressional earmarking scandal involving the now defunct PMA Group. According to the lawsuit, filed on April 15th in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia:
“Starting in the mid-1970s until his death, Representative Murtha has been known for his allegedly corrupt practices as well as his inflammatory and controversial statements. During the Abscam sting operation, he was caught on tape allegedly offering political concessions for cash. More recently, Representative Murtha was being investigated for his ties to the PMA Group, a now defunct lobbying group…In a final effort to investigate and report on Representative Murtha’s lack of ethics and his abuse of office for more than 25 years, on February 9, 2010 [Judicial Watch] sent a FOIA request to [the FBI] seeking access to any and all records concerning, regarding or relating to John Patrick Murtha.”
The FBI acknowledged receipt of Judicial Watch’s FOIA request on February 18, 2010, but failed to reply within the statutory allotted 20-day period. To date, the FBI has released no documents pursuant to Judicial Watch’s request and has failed to demonstrate that documents are exempt from production. As Judicial Watch noted in its complaint, “Representative John Murtha was a regular on Judicial Watch’s “Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians” and recently featured at number nine on Judicial Watch’s 2009 list for his connection to the PMA Group scandal.
PMA, founded by a former Murtha associate, was the late congressman’s largest campaign contributor. Murtha raised $1.7 million from PMA and its clients between 2002 and the time of his death, proposing tens of millions of dollars in earmarks for the benefit of PMA. Even following an FBI raid of PMA’s offices in 2009, Murtha continued to seek congressional earmarks for PMA clients, while also requesting campaign contributions. Press reports linked six other Members of Congress to the PMA Group scandal, including Peter J. Visclosky (D-IN.), James P. Moran Jr. (D-VA), Norm Dicks (D-WA.), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), C.W. Bill Young (R-FL.) and Todd Tiahrt (R-KS.). The House Ethics Committee recently — and controversially — found no wrongdoing, but the FBI investigation continues.
“Congressman Murtha may no longer be with us, but there are important lessons to be learned from the long legacy of corruption he left behind,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The fact that the House Ethics Committee recently whitewashed the PMA Group scandal makes Judicial Watch’s investigation all the more important. Judicial Watch is committed to using these FBI documents to complete the public record on Murtha’s long history of corrupt activities — and how it reflects on the ethics of Congress.
“Leave it to the allegedly ‘transparent’ Obama administration to stonewall this basic open records request. We hope the court reminds the Obama administration that is it is not above the law.”