Most members of a powerful House subcommittee have ties to lobbyists who won special spending earmarks from that panel, a computer analysis done by the independent Center for Public Integrity suggests.
The center, in a report issued this morning, looks at the 2008 spending bill from the House Subcommittee on Defense.
It tracked 12 of the panel's members and found that 16 of those members' staffers went to work for 10 different lobbying firms -- firms that in turn won more than 50 earmarks, totaling more than $95 million, in that 2008 Pentagon spending package.
As the report states:
For months, a cloud has swirled around Congressman John Murtha (D-Pa.), chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, and the relationship that Murtha and other subcommittee members had with the PMA Group, a lobbying firm filled with former subcommittee aides.
Murtha and fellow panel members Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) and Jim Moran (D-Va.) steered a host of earmarks to PMA clients, and those clients and PMA staffers gave campaign contributions to the lawmakers. Aspects of those relationships are the subject of a Justice Department probe, which is thought to be looking at whether there were explicit quid pro quo exchanges of favors for cash, which would make crimes out of relationships that are otherwise legal. The House ethics committee is also looking at the situation, and the PMA Group closed following an FBI raid late last year.
Now, a computer analysis by the Center for Public Integrity has revealed that fully three-quarters of the subcommittee members have been involved in similar patterns of behavior -- in circles of relationships fraught with potential conflicts of interest, involving former congressional staffers-turned lobbyists, earmarks, and campaign cash. In these circles, former staffers became lobbyists for defense contractors; the contractors received earmarks from the representatives; and the representatives received campaign contributions from the lobbyists or the contractors.
Murtha and other members of the subcommittee have previously denied any wrong-doing.
(Peter Overby covers money and politics for NPR. For more of his reporting on Murtha and the Defense subcommittee, click here.)