Murtha’s Earmarks

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The Wall Street Journal has a superb page-one take-out today on Rep. John Murtha’s unabashed pursuit of pork on behalf of his western Pennsylvania district. The figures are eye-popping, and dispiriting: Murtha has funneled literally billions of dollars to his hometown of Johnstown, Pa., and the rest of his district, over the course of his 33 years in the House — much of it in the form of defense spending that the Pentagon never wanted. The story shows how military contractors have routinely opened offices and plants in Murtha’s district and then reaped the benefits by scoring lucrative DoD contracts.

Another excellent (and related) story leads USA Today. The piece is about a request from the Pentagon for $1.4 billion in emergency spending to combat snipers in Iraq, and the fact that the request was based in part on a claim by the Pentagon that sniper attacks have quadrupled in the past year. Small problem: sniper attacks against U.S. soldiers in Iraq have actually decreased in 2007, especially in the past four months. Kudos to USA Today for exposing the false claim.

But what’s the link to the Journal’s Murtha story? As my colleague Mark Thompson pointed out to me, the USA Today piece ends with these two paragraphs:

The Pentagon has been deploying countersniper technology this year, including remotely fired weapons that allow troops to stay inside vehicles and avoid exposure to gunfire.

Kongsberg Defense and Aerospace, a Norwegian company with a major plant in Johnstown, Pa., is supplying the Army with as many as 6,500 of the systems, according to Jeffrey Child, a company spokesman.

In other words, one of the companies that would likely benefit from $1.4 billion in emergency funding happens to have a major plant in Johnstown, Pa., which happens to be the hometown of John Murtha, chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Defense.