Ex-Staffers Winning Defense Panel Pork, Study Finds

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The Washington Post

Ex-Staffers Winning Defense Panel Pork, Study Finds

by
Carol D. Leonnig

In the coming year's military spending bill, members of a House panel
continue to steer lucrative defense contracts to companies represented
by their former staffers, who in turn steer generous campaign donations
to those lawmakers, a new analysis has found.

The Center for Public Integrity found that 10 of the 16 members of the
House subcommittee on defense appropriations obtained 30 earmarks in
the bill worth $103 million for contractors currently or recently
employing former staffers who have become lobbyists. The analysis by
the Washington watchdog group found that earmarks still often hinge on
a web of connections, despite at least three criminal investigations of
the practice that became public in the past year. Those probes focus on
a handful of defense contractors and a powerful lobbying firm that
together won hundreds of millions of dollars in work from the House
panel and are closely tied to its chairman,  Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.).

On Tuesday, the Senate approved a $636 billion military spending bill
for fiscal year 2010; the House approved its version in July. House and
Senate members now will work in conference to resolve differences
between their two bills.

The Center for Public Integrity's analysis found some shifts in earmarking patterns since its similar analysis
of the 2008 defense bill. First, Rep. Peter J. Visclosky (D-Ind.),
whose office records were subpoenaed by federal prosecutors in May, has
markedly reduced his earmark requests and sought no work for private
companies. Also, defense appropriators are generally steering more
earmarks to nonprofits.

The Washington Post has documented more than $400 million in defense
earmarks that Murtha has directed in the past decade to research groups
in his district, including the Penn State Electro-Optics Center and the
John P. Murtha Institute for Homeland Security, which steered much of
the funds to private contractors.

Since last fall, federal investigators have been probing the PMA
Group, a now-shuttered lobbying firm whose clients had unusual success
in winning earmarks from Murtha's subcommittee. Founder Paul
Magliocchetti is a close friend of Murtha's and worked as a defense
appropriations staffer when Murtha was a rank-and-file member of the
committee.

PMA and its clients had been big donors to Murtha and
his fellow subcommittee members in the past decade, according to a
Center for Responsive Politics report, with Murtha receiving the most.
Since 1998, workers at those firms and their family members provided
$2.4 million to Murtha -- who helped insert more than $100 million in
defense-related earmarks into 2008 appropriations bills. Visclosky was
second, collecting $1.4 million, and Rep.  James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) was next, with $997,000.

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