A bit of odd-named retro-muck has surfaced in the House leadership race: A 26-year-old FBI sting dubbed "ABSCAM."
The episode threatened to end the career of Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), who now seeks the position of House Majority Leader. He and his supporters brush off ABSCAM as old news, and accuse his opponents of lobbing baseless charges. "I am disconcerted that some are making headlines by resorting to unfounded allegations that occurred 26 years ago," Murtha himself said in a statement yesterday. "I thought we were above [that] type of Swift-boating attack."
But his detractors say it's evidence that Murtha is at best a backroom dealer, and proves he shouldn't be the face of a new, ethics-minded Congress.
But what was ABSCAM? How can anyone say it tainted Murtha -- especially since he was never charged with any crime?
ABSCAM was the media's name for an FBI undercover operation to catch corrupt lawmakers. Around 1980, agents and an informant met with several lawmakers posing as representatives of a fictional "sheik Abdul" to offer them $50,000 in cash for legislative favors. Murtha was one of the lawmakers who met with them.
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.
You can see for yourself why that may have been hard to do. The American Spectator got ahold of the FBI's ABSCAM tape of its meeting with Murtha, and you can view it on the magazine's Web site. It's 53 minutes long, but a representative sample can be seen if you start at around 15:23 and watch for a few minutes.
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