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Leaked document reveals six “Murtha Method” Reps. under investigation

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Seven members of a powerful subcommittee that was the subject of a recent Center investigation are now being scrutinized by the House ethics committee, according to The Washington Post. The paper also reports that they are among more than 30 lawmakers being scrutinized for ethics violations, according to a leaked confidential document.

Last month, the Center reported that a dozen members of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee received campaign contributions from earmark recipients who also used the lobbying services of former staffers of those lawmakers or the subcommittee. “The Murtha Method” story, named after Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha, the chairman of the panel, identified six of the seven subcommittee members under investigation as being in these controversial networks of influence.

Murtha, along with Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.), James Moran (D-Va.), Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) and Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) are being scrutinized by ethics investigators from the House ethics committee and/or the new Office of Congressional Ethics created by the ethics reforms of 2007. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), who is also under investigation, did not appear in our review of fiscal years 2008 and 2010 defense appropriations earmark recipients because we did not identify any former Kaptur staffer acting as a lobbyist for her earmark recipients. Tiahrt appeared in our review of 2008 earmarks, but not of those in 2010; the rest appeared in both reviews.

The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) does not have subpoena power and can only make recommendations to the ethics committee (officially, the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct), which does have subpoena power. According to the Post, the OCE inquiry is an examination of lawmakers who may have been “accepting contributions or other items of value from PMA’s PAC in exchange for an official act.” The PMA Group, a now-defunct lobbying firm, was headed former House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee staffer Paul Magliocchetti and was considered widely influential in gaining earmarks from that subcommittee. It had been previously disclosed that the House ethics committee was examining the activities of the PMA Group.

In a statement released yesterday, ethics committee chair Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and ranking member Jo Bonner (R-Ala.), wrote “at any one time, the Committee has dozens of matters regarding Members, Officers, and employees before it… no inference to any misconduct can be made from the fact that a matter is simply before the Committee.” They said the leak of documents came from a former junior staffer who was able to gain “unauthorized and inappropriate” access the documents from his home computer.