John R. Wilke’s profile of Murtha in today’s Wall Street Journal helps explain why ethics reform — the rallying cry of the 2006 Democrats — has become a punchline under their leadership. Murtha, who chairs the defense appropriations subcommittee, is an indispensable part of Nancy Pelosi’s majority; he helped her get a seat on the Appropriations Committee early in her career; he controls half a trillion dollars worth of federal spending; and his leadership PAC is capable of raising tons of money. Earlier this year, when a Republican tried to reprimand Murtha for indisputably breaking the Democrats’ new earmarking rules, all but two Democrats voted to kill the measure without even debating it.
Read the profile. Earmarks. Back-room deals. Cronyism. This is the kind of stuff the Democrats pledged to clean up during their “Culture of Corruption” campaign swing in 2006. But members like Murtha – influential power-brokers addicted to the old ways – have very effectively prevented them from keeping their promises. At the beginning of the year, Murtha called the Democrats’ ambitious ethics-reform proposals “total crap.” Thanks to guys like him, that’s what they’ve amounted to.