Since [Johnstown's National Drug Intelligence Center] opened 13 years ago, Mr. Murtha has steered $509 million its way. For Johnstown, it has brought 300 federal jobs and the restoration of an abandoned red-brick department store downtown, now its headquarters.
The center, operated as an arm of the Justice Department to provide intelligence and analysis to combat drug trafficking, has been a target for lawmakers opposed to pork-barrel spending. Even before the center opened, the General Accounting Office had called it a waste of money because it duplicated drug-intelligence gathering in Washington and at a center on the Texas-Mexico border. It spent millions on shoddy drug-intelligence reports, and on analytical software that didn't work well, congressional investigators said last year.
For 2008, the White House had proposed spending $16 million to shut the center down. Mr. Murtha fought back and added $23 million more to the intelligence bill to save the facility for another year.
When a GOP lawmaker tried to cut funding for the center on the floor, Murtha went after him, in a way reminiscent of Rep. Don Young's (R-AK) threat to bite another rep like a mink. His threat of retaliation against another rep also caused his party a headache.
But is Murtha getting rich off of his pork barreling? Wilke's conclusion: not as far as anyone can tell. And Murtha "ranked No. 333 in net worth among the 435 members of the House in a 2005 analysis by the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics."
Murtha's former aides, however, are another story -- as it's now well known that lobby shops they helm are the way to Murtha's heart. And Murtha has created a streamlined system: defense contractors can be assured of Murtha's advocacy if they 1) move to his district, 2) hire one of his favored lobby shops, and 3) generously support his campaign committee. It's a simple system, and one he's not likely to change soon, no matter how many front page stories lay it all out.