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EXCLUSIVE: Murtha, Moran steer millions to software firm
Question of the Day
Since 1989, PMA’s lobbyists and employees have donated $271,500 to Mr. Visclosky, $171,200 to Mr. Moran and $167,400 to Mr. Murtha, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a nonpartisan watchdog that monitors campaign finances. When coupled with donations from the firm’s clients, the PMA-related political gifts for each of the three lawmakers jump to $1 million or more, CRP said.
Watchdog groups such as Common Cause asked the House ethics committee to investigate Mr. Murtha, Mr. Moran and Mr. Visclosky to determine whether they traded earmarks for campaign gifts from PMA and its clients. In June, after pressure from House Republicans and various watchdog agencies, the committee announced it had already begun to look into any misconduct of members and employees of the House in connection with activities of the PMA Group.
Mr. Murtha, chairman or ranking member of the House defense appropriations subcommittee for the past 20 years, has said he has done nothing wrong and the investigations don’t concern him. A staunch defender of earmarks, Mr. Murtha says on his Web site that “elected representatives of the people understand their constituents and districts best.”
Records show that in 2003, MobilVox hired two lobbying firms — one with ties to Mr. Murtha and the Democrats and another with ties to now-disgraced former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, a California Republican then on the defense appropriations subcommittee.
MobilVox hired Timothy Charters, former aide to Mr. Cunningham, paying his lobbying firm, Charters and Co., $80,000 between July 2003 and June 2005. During that period, Republicans controlled the House and Mr. Cunningham had not yet been accused by the Justice Department of taking bribes.
Mr. Charters said MobilVox needed help in getting the Defense Department interested in a new handheld device it had developed for military ordinance disposal teams, and Mr. Cunningham played no role in his work for the firm. He said he introduced company officials to Mr. Moran to persuade the lawmaker to sponsor an earmark for the device.
“In order to educate the congressman about this product, we invited him to visit the MobilVox facility and meet with experts in the bomb disposal community and MobilVox employees,” Mr. Charters said in a written statement.
He said Mr. Moran agreed to help and, according to federal records, a $1 million earmark later was inserted into the defense appropriations bill for 2005, which had passed in July 2004.
At the time, Mrs. Koloszar still worked as Mr. Moran’s chief of staff and his appropriations aide, but she left in November 2005 to join PMA. A few months later, she became a lobbyist for MobilVox.
The second lobbying firm hired in 2003, KSA Consulting, employed Robert “Kit” Murtha, the congressman’s younger brother, and Carmen Scialabba, who worked as a Murtha appropriations committee staffer for 27 years. In a 2000 tribute in the Congressional Record, Mr. Murtha described Mr. Scialabba as “indispensable.”
Listed on KSA disclosure reports as a MobilVox lobbyist, Kit Murtha said he never used his brother to further his career. He said he told clients, “I don’t know if I can do anything. Jack can be kind of unreasonable.” He described his KSA role as more of “a glad hander,” who introduced MobilVox executives to defense contractors.
In its disclosure forms, KSA said MobilVox paid it less than $10,000 in fees for each six-month reporting period between 2003 and 2006, and it stopped working for the Virginia firm at the end of 2006.
In a brief telephone call, Mr. Scialabba, who brought Kit Murtha into KSA, said he knew nothing about MobilVox and hung up.
In 2004, a year after MobilVox hired the two lobbying companies, Mr. Lenz and Mr. Murtha jointly announced that the company was opening an office in Indiana, Pa., in the congressman’s financially struggling district. The announcement came at Mr. Murtha’s annual “Showcase for Commerce,” a trade show in his hometown of Johnstown, Pa.
The show brings the nation’s top defense contractors together for what Mr. Murtha has called “one of the largest government-procurement expositions in the country.” Mr. Mazonkey, the Murtha spokesman, said the congressman was “happy to welcome MobilVox to the district in 2004 to work on important NASA and defense programs.”
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