September 2, 2009

The city that pork built

Most scandals involve a person — Jack Abramoff, Duke Cunningham, William Jefferson — but The New Republic has an excellent piece about a scandal that could bring down an entire city.

For decades, Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) has used his position on the House Appropriations Committee to "bring home the bacon" to his Johnstown constituents who obligingly return him back to Congress:

Unlike other Rust Belt cities, however, Johnstown was not completely decimated by the steel industry’s collapse. From his perch on the House Appropriations Committee, Murtha had, over the years, directed $2 billion in federal spending to his district. Kuchera, who, following prison, had moved back to Johnstown and reinvented himself as an entrepreneur specializing in electronics and defense contracting, was just one of the local businessmen who had benefited from this largesse. “I’m certainly a Republican . . . and I don’t think Mr. Murtha and I would agree on everything,” Mark Pasquerilla, a Johnstown businessman who attended the fundraiser, later told me. But “on an economic-development level, he delivers.” In steel’s place, Murtha had become Johnstown’s economic engine, keeping it afloat with a steady stream of government cash that flowed to the city’s private businesses, its hospitals, even its airport--which, like so many things in Johnstown, now bore his name. Murtha was not just Johnstown’s congressman; he was its savior.

John Murtha is a prime example of how lawmakers use the public trough for private gain.