INDIANA, Pa. — In April 2004, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) celebrated the groundbreaking for a gleaming new office building here, designed around its anchor tenant, a Rockville, Md.-based technology company called Aeptec Microsystems.
Murtha pursued millions of dollars worth of legislative earmarks for the company, and Aeptec’s federal contracts blossomed after it opened a branch in his district in 2001, rising from about $13 million in 2000 to $45.6 million in 2003 and $33 million in 2004, according to fedspending.org, a database of federal contracts. The company had been represented by two lobbying firms with close ties to Murtha: KSA Consulting and the PMA Group.
But Aeptec never moved into the Indiana building, which was built mostly with state and local development funds and remains mostly empty after opening last month. The company, also known as 3eTI, instead moved its staff of about 15 people into a nondescript office park across town, where its name is not even posted on the outside door. It has since been bought by Texas-based EFJ Inc.
Aeptec’s story is not unique. Murtha has obtained millions of dollars in earmarks for firms in his district, many of them clients of PMA and KSA. But in many cases the money is not for local companies, it is for companies that move to the district, and frequently it is for start-ups that essentially would not be in business were it not for Murtha’s largesse. Some of the firms also are simply store-front offices of companies that do most of their work elsewhere.
As long as there’s “some tie to the district,” said Murtha to the undercover FBI officer. “That’s the secret to the whole thing.”