- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Rep. John P. Murtha’s Republican challenger has accused him of negotiating a $50,000 bribe and of trying to cover it up for 26 years.

A recently released FBI video recorded in 1980 shows the Pennsylvania Democrat talking with an FBI agent posing as a representative to an Arab sheik who offers Mr. Murtha $50,000 in cash in exchange for private immigration legislation.

“When you see the video, there was every intent of taking the bribe,” said Diana Irey, a Washington County, Pa., commissioner who is running to unseat Mr. Murtha. “For 26 years, John Murtha has been living a lie.”

Six members of the House and one senator were forced to resign because of their involvement in what became known as the “Abscam” scandal.

The video was released last week on the American Spectator Web site (www.spectator.org), a conservative publication. The magazine says it received the video from a source close to the Abscam investigation.

“It was widely reported that he provided testimony against others,” Mrs. Irey said, when asked why Mr. Murtha was not prosecuted for his ties to the Abscam investigation.

Mr. Murtha cooperated with officials in the prosecution of former Democratic Reps. Frank Thompson of New Jersey and John Murphy of New York. In July 1981, the House ethics committee ruled there was no evidence Mr. Murtha acted improperly, although E. Barrett Prettyman Jr., the special counsel assigned to the committee, resigned in protest. The FBI listed Mr. Murtha as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the scandal.

Near the end of the 54-minute video of the meeting, Mr. Murtha and Philadelphia lawyer Howard Criden return to the room after a brief absence. Mr. Criden then begins speaking to undercover FBI agent Anthony Amoroso, who posed as “Tony DeVito,” the purported sheik’s representative.

“John says it’s OK for you to give me what’s in the drawer,” Mr. Criden says, according to the Spectator’s transcript of the video.

“Is that all right, Tony?” Mr. Murtha asks Mr. Amoroso. Then, referring to Thompson and Murphy, Mr. Murtha says: “Let me make it very clear. The other two guys do expect to be taken care of. … And you’re gonna have to deal through [Mr. Criden]. Me, you’ve got my deal.”

Mrs. Irey played excerpts from the video at a press conference in Washington yesterday. “Leaving a room where one has just been offered $50,000 in cash, only to return two minutes later with a bag man saying, ‘John says that it is OK for you to give me what’s in the drawer,’ is not something done by a man who’s not aware he’s trying to take a bribe,” Mrs. Irey said.

Mr. Murtha has long maintained he only met with the undercover agents to pursue legitimate investment in his district. Mr. Murtha can be seen in the video rejecting an offer to accept the $50,000 personally. The Irey campaign says Mr. Murtha wanted to use Mr. Criden as his middleman to accept the cash on his behalf.

“I’m not interested,” Mr. Murtha says in the video.

“OK,” Mr. Amoroso responds.

“At this point,” Mr. Murtha adds: “You know, we do business for a while, maybe I’ll be interested, maybe I won’t, you know.”

After the video was posted online Friday, the Murtha campaign issued a statement from the congressman denouncing the move as “nothing but a political stunt.”

“I am the guy that didn’t take the money,” Mr. Murtha said. “I have been re-elected to Congress 13 times since this tape was made 25 years ago. I will not be distracted.”

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