The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

March 23, 2009

Murtha defends statement

The region’s outspoken congressman is in the national lens again – this time CBS News television cameras – in a report Wednesday that calls him “the king of earmarks who wastes a lot of taxpayer money” and implies that the FBI is investigating.

U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Johnstown, responded by waving the Constitution at the camera, saying: “What it says is the Congress of the United States appropriates the money. Got that?”

Murtha’s staff was blunt, describing the CBS report as “a sensationalized piece of garbage.”

In his 35-year career in Congress, Murtha has ascended to the chairmanship of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

He has been in a position to award contracts that have drawn growing companies to the Johnstown region, including Concurrent Technologies Corp. in Richland Township, which just last month received a contract worth $236 million.

The CBS report does not state anything already reported by other news organizations during the past few months. The FBI has not said that Murtha is a target of any investigation, and Murtha’s staff says, unequivocally, “We have not been contacted by any federal agency.”

“It’s unfortunate how bad the national news media has become,” Murtha spokesman Matt Mazonkey said in a telephone interview with The Tribune-Democrat.

“They’re more interested in running two-minute clips based on sensationalized claims and unnamed sources than they are at getting their facts straight and telling the real story,” he said.

“We have not been contacted by any federal agency,” Mazonkey reiterated.

Wednesday’s CBS report attacked budget projects earmarked by Murtha and quoted an anonymous source as saying that a Murtha-earmarked project urged employees to donate to the congressman.

Six donors linked to that project gave to Murtha’s campaign on the same day last year, CBS said.

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