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Press Release

Murtha's Night of Fundraising Masks Years of Fiscal Mischief, Nation's Largest Taxpayer Group Says

For Immediate Release February 27, 2008
Pete Sepp, (703) 683-5700

(Alexandria, Va.) -- U.S. Rep. John Murtha's (D-PA) traditional "payback dinner" to raise funds from defense contractors is as time-honored as his anti-taxpayer record, according to the 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU). For the majority of its nearly 40-year history -- since Murtha's first special election to Congress in 1974 -- NTU has been fighting his favor factory and other fiscal follies.

"Congressman Murtha's earmarking has a long history, but so does his overall poor spending record -- which, sadly, isn't news to taxpayers," said NTU Vice President for Policy and Communications Pete Sepp, one of dozens of taxpayer advocates who protested the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman's fundraising dinner targeting defense industry lobbyists. "As legislative history indicates, and as NTU has documented over the years, tonight's banquet is only the latest unappetizing item on Murtha's menu, where just about every dish served is pork."

Since 1979, NTU has rated Members of Congress using a consistent methodology that includes all roll call votes cast in a given year on fiscal issues. Between 1979 and 2006, Murtha scored dead last on NTU's Rating during four years, tied for last a fifth year, wound up among the five worst performers for three additional years, and ended in the 10 lowest-ranked for three more. No other House Member has such a dismal history with NTU's scorecard.

In 1991, Murtha slipped a section into a "dire emergency" Gulf War funding bill directing the Pentagon -- without consultation -- to spend $1.2 billion to gut and rebuild the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy at the Philadelphia shipyard. The Senate voted 56-44 to carve out that slab of pork, but Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) helped reinstate it during House-Senate negotiations. The ship was decommissioned six years later.

Murtha's missteps aren't only limited to earmarking and spending -- they also include allegations of serious ethics violations. Murtha has been named an unindicted co-conspirator in the late-1970s Abscam bribery scandal, an FBI sting operation in which agents posed as Saudi sheiks seeking asylum in exchange for money, which led to the conviction of several Congressmen. The issue resurfaced in 2006, but Murtha once again escaped unscathed.

Taxpayer advocates from Americans for Prosperity and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste also showed up at the $1,500-a-person "Evening with Jack and Joyce Murtha" at the Pentagon City Ritz-Carlton in Arlington, Va. to protest the payback cycle involving earmark-receiving (and earmark-seeking) defense contractors.

NTU is a nonpartisan, nonprofit citizen organization founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes, smaller government, and economic freedom at all levels. Note: For further information on NTU's earmark reform efforts, visit