It’s a lovely morning today. The sun is shining down from a brilliantly-azure sky. The birds are singing counterpoint to the steady rumble of people getting up, going to work and living their lives. Somewhere, a child laughs with innocent delight as a sudden breeze stirs the grass, and sends dandelion seeds dancing through the air. And Air Force investigators are charging that various-and-sundry companies linked to Rep. Jack Murtha (and his lobbyist brother Kit Murtha) improperly received and used earmarks funneled to them by him.
When an Air Force command in north Florida sought new battlefield technologies, Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) steered millions in federal dollars its way to hire defense contractors.
The research effort at the Pensacola Air Force base fell apart, however, when investigators found evidence that it was used to improperly pay a series of companies linked to Murtha. A handful of defense firms were paid for work that was never done or not called for in the contracts. Some of the companies involved, based in Wyoming, Florida and Murtha’s district in Pennsylvania, had hidden owners, prosecutors allege; one was secretly owned by the Air Force official who helped approve the payments.
As prosecutors reveal new details of their criminal probe into the $8 million earmark that Murtha arranged for the Air Force project, one familiar player is never mentioned by authorities. Several of the companies had hired the lobbying firm of the lawmaker’s brother, Robert C. “Kit” Murtha.
They’ve already flipped one of the defendants: Richard Ianieri (formerly of Coherent Systems International, one of the companies involved) will be cooperating with the authorities on this and a probably-related kickback case. In other words, this is the point in the ongoing investigation timeline where the investigators have finally taken hold of the loose thread and are prepared to give it a good, hard yank – just to see what happens. This is also the point where people start mumbling things like ‘no wrongdoing has been proven on the part of my client’ rather than confidently shouting it: it’s not yet the point where sitting politicians start discovering a burning need to spend more time with their families, but there’s time for that.
If I may make an unasked-for observation: the Speaker of the House really should have sat down some of her more… enthusiastic appropriators in 2007 and gently explained to them that it would be a good idea for them to not run for re-election in 2008. Democratic retirees for the last two election cycles have been much lower than the GOP’s: it’s going to be very interesting to see whether that rebounds to their disfavor this go-round. Certainly the NRCC is going to be happy to run against some of the deadwood that the Democrats are keeping around to boost their margin of reliable votes…
Crossposted to Moe Lane.