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Politics Digest

Thursday, September 10, 2009

EARMARKS

Murtha's Not Alone, Watchdog Group Says

Rep. John P. Murtha's controversial pattern of steering lucrative defense contracts to firms represented by his close friends and former staffers is a common practice among members of his Appropriations subcommittee, according to a new analysis by a watchdog group.

Murtha (D-Pa.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee, has been criticized by ethics and taxpayer advocacy groups for channeling hundreds of millions of Pentagon dollars to companies represented by lobbying firms headed by close associates who are donors to his campaigns.

Using a computer analysis of public records, the Center for Public Integrity found that, including Murtha, 12 of the committee's 16 members have followed Murtha's earmarking pattern, providing targeted military funds to specific contractors represented by former staffers and friends. Numerous investigative stories have focused on Murtha and fellow Reps. Peter J. Visclosky (D-Ind.) and James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), but other committee members' earmark requests have not faced similar scrutiny.

Since last fall, federal investigators have been probing the PMA Group, a former lobbying firm with close ties to Murtha and whose clients had unusual success in winning targeted earmarks from Murtha's committee.

According to the center's analysis, which focused on the 2008 fiscal year, the pattern of steering earmarks to clients of the lawmakers' former staffers involved more than 10 lobbying firms, 50 earmarks and campaign donations of more than $1 million.

-- Carol D. Leonnig

SENATE

Fla.'s Martinez Leaves 16 Months Early

Declaring himself "grateful" for the opportunity to serve, Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) officially resigned from the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, 16 months before his term was to expire.

Martinez, who had announced earlier in the year that he was not seeking reelection, said last month that he would depart as soon as a replacement was selected by Gov. Charlie Crist. George LeMieux, Crist's former chief of staff, will be sworn in as Martinez's successor Thursday.

Martinez, who has said he was resigning to spend more time with his family, said he will continue his work as the first Cuban American elected to the Senate on issues important to the community.

"Even though I will no longer hold public office, my passion to work to see the day when people in Cuba will live in freedom will continue," he said.

-- Perry Bacon Jr.

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