John Murtha, 77, Exits Congress The Only Way He Ever Would…

…Murtha passed away from complications of gall bladder surgery this morning. Our prayers go out to his family.

The Pennsylvania Democrat, called the “King Of Pork” in some circles, had a long and disgraceful congressional career largely begun by his role in the ABSCAM scandal in 1980, for which he managed to avoid jail time. That was the beginning of a series of outrages for which he was responsible. As Wikipedia chronicles:

Murtha has been targeted by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington as one of the 20 most corrupt members of Congress.[11] [12][13]

In September 2006 the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) listed Murtha under Five Members to Watch in its Second Annual Most Corrupt Members of Congress Report. The report cited Murtha’s steering of defense appropriations to clients of KSA Consulting, which employed his brother Robert, and the PMA Group, founded by Paul Magliocchetti, a former senior staffer on the Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Defense.[14]

In 2008, Esquire Magazine named him one of the 10 worst members of Congress because of his opposition to ethics reform and the $100 million a year he brings in earmarks to his district.[15] The Wall Street Journal has called him “one of Congress’s most unapologetic earmarkers.”[16] According to the Pennsylvania Report, Murtha is one of “Pennsylvania’s most powerful congressman” and a “master of crossing the aisle and bringing pork into his district.”[17]

In February 2009, CQ Politics reported that Murtha was one of 104 U.S. representatives to earmark funds in the 2008 Defense appropriations spending bill for a lobbying group that had contributed to his past election campaigns. The spending bill, which was managed by Murtha in his capacity as Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, secured $38.1 million for clients of the PMA Group in the single fiscal law.[18] The PMA Group is currently under investigation by the FBI.[19]

In March 2009, the Washington Post reported that a Pennsylvania defense research center regularly consulted with two “handlers” close to Murtha while it received nearly $250 million in federal funding via Murtha’s earmarks. The center then channeled a significant portion of the funding to companies that were among Murtha’s campaign supporters.[20]

Murtha’s role in slandering the Haditha Marines, which was of a piece with his conduct in attempting to effect a troop pullout from Iraq, was a more controversial accomplishment. Most recently, he was known for this Harry Reid-esque quote about his own constituents during the 2008 presidential campaign:

“[T]here’s still folks that have a problem voting for someone because they are black. This whole area, years ago, was really redneck.”

Despite the public swath of controversy Murtha did manage to craft a reputation on Capitol Hill as a nice guy and a fun fellow to talk to. He was an affable storyteller and a relatively popular figure in and around Johnstown, Pennsylvania, where his district was based, due to the large amount of federal swag he had reeled in over the years.

Murtha managed to defeat Republican challenger William Russell, an Army Lt. Colonel and LSU graduate, in the 2008 election, but Russell was actively campaigning for the seat for this fall’s cycle (Russell had raised over $2 million for the race) even before Murtha’s death today.

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