The Campaign Spot

When Mark Critz Worked For Murtha, Was His Old Title ‘District Director’ or ‘Henchman’?

Back in mid-March, I wrote: “in some ways, Mark Critz is exactly the right man to continue the work of the late John Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who spent most of his last years in Congress surrounded by allegations that he traded earmarks for donations. Critz was Murtha’s district director, and he shares many habits with his old boss: malodorous deals, explanations to the public that don’t add up, conflicting political and public-office loyalties, and a cynical sensibility that “the appearance of impropriety” ceased being a worry a long time ago.”

This morning, the Washington Post informs us:

Many of the defense contractors that benefited from the late Rep. John Murtha’s power to dole out Pentagon contracts are lining up to help elect his top aide to the seat.

Defense contractors, local business officers and lobbyists that relied on earmarked federal contracts from Murtha (D-Pa.) recently chipped in $142,400 to elect Mark Critz, an analysis by The Washington Post shows. Those donations made up more than 52 percent of the individual contributions that Critz raised in the first-quarter of 2010 as he seeks to replace his late boss, new campaign records reveal…

Four former lobbyists of the PMA Group, a once-powerful lobbying shop, also chipped in to elect Critz. Murtha arranged for his spending panel to steer hundreds of millions of earmarked contracts to PMA clients. The firm shut its doors amid a criminal investigation scrutinizing more than $1 million dollars in campaign contributions it gave to Murtha and other subcommittee members.

…The House ethics committee identified Critz as a person who prepared earmark suggestions for Murtha, and Murtha told the committee he routinely approved the list his staff gave him without making any changes. The committee found no evidence of wrongdoing by Murtha.

This is the same House Ethics Committee that has so far found exactly one case of misbehavior requiring any disciplinary action since January 2007. Even Inspector Clousteau closed cases faster than this.

We heard about John Murtha and his effort to secure federal tax dollars for the “Airport For No One.” I suspect that if elected, Critz would shift his focus to rail projects in the district, as so many of his contributors seem to be concerned about the Gravy Train.

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