Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Murtha and ABSCAM

Sigh. This is the sort of thing that makes it hard to get behind Murtha as Majority Leader, even with Adam's otherwise compelling argument:

Ultimately, six lawmakers went down on corruption charges stemming from the operation, nearly all of them Democrats. Murtha wasn't one of them -- but not, as Murtha implies, because his innocence was ever demonstrated. "I'm gonna be blunt," an FBI man says to Murtha after laying out what favors he was looking to buy. "Are you telling me now. . . you don't want any money on this thing?"

"There's some places I'd like you to invest some money, in the banks, in my district," Murtha responds. "I'd say some substantial deposits." He explains later how he does so many favors for people that, if they weren't all for individuals in his district, "people would say, that son of a bitch. . . is on the take.""Once they say that, what happens?" Murtha asks the FBI men rhetorically, ignorant of the fact that he was explaining his own M.O. to agents trying to bust him for corruption. "Then they start going around looking for the goddamn money. So I want to avoid that by having some tie to the district. That's all. That's the secret to the whole thing."
How did Murtha get away with this?

When O'Neill learned that the special prosecutor, Barrett Prettyman Jr., had set his sights on Murtha, "the Speaker immediately summoned [then-Texas Dem. congressman] Charlie Wilson into his office with an offer he couldn't refuse" -- a seat on the House ethics committee.

Wilson, a man of proudly compromised morals, protested that they would both get "laughed off the [House] floor" if he accepted. But O'Neill wanted Wilson on the panel to stop the probe from reaching Murtha, Crile reports. And he got it -- by promising Wilson a lifetime appointment to the board of the Kennedy Center, which gave Wilson -- a well-known womanizer -- dozens of free tickets to performing arts events.
I know ABSCAM was 26 years ago, but Murtha wasn't a young man at the time. And he doesn't seem to have learned his lesson, given that he now thinks that an ethics reform bill being pushed by fellow Democrats is "
total crap." I know Hoyer is not the most inspired choice, but given anti-corruption wave that helped to sweep Republicans from power, how does it make sense to make as Majority Leader a man who himself has dabbled in corruption and opposes ethics reform?


adam said...

Unfortunately, neither is a good choice.

Oh well, at least the Republicans picked Trent Lott to leadership.

adam said...

I would also point out though that Murtha has said he'd vote for the ethics reform bill and work to pass it, so that would seem to indicate his own personal ethics won't spill over into the caucus.

adam said...

Even better, the quote was apparently taken completely out of context:

Nat-Wu said...

That quote was, but his quotes in the ABSCAM scandal weren't. I still don't like him, and I don't want him in a position of such power (although I realize he is already).

adam said...

While I would have prefered to have avoided this now no-win situation altogether by just allowing Hoyer to take the post, I think bringing up the ABSCAM stuff, and especially misquoting Murtha, was pretty sleazy on the part of the Hoyer camp. That was 26 years ago... and he was exonerated of any wrongdoing.

As for Murtha himself, I'm torn. I think he has a pork-addiction, but he also had the courage to stand up on Iraq and I think can be credited with changing the debate. He gave the Dems their voice, going not just from criticism of the war but challenging the policy. Would we be here today without him?

Fan Boy said...

Better Off with tomorrow?