Thursday, December 20, 2007

MURTHA: Art of the Payoff

In 2004, John Murtha faced no opposition whatsoever for his congressional seat. He got 100% of the vote.

That same year, Murtha’s fundraising for his “campaign” added up to $2.3 million. His “expenditures” on the “campaign” totaled $1.56 million.

So, he spent more than a million-and-a-half dollars to vanquish a non-existent opposition. Huh?

It wasn’t as if he was expecting a well-financed contender to raise lots of money and contest vigorously for the seat. In 2002, Murtha raised $2.4 million and got 74% of the vote. His opponent, Republican Dr. Bill Choby, raised only $17,000 and got just 25% of the vote.

Let’s focus on the $1.56 that Murtha “spent” in the uncontested year of 2004. As you’ve noticed, I’ve been putting lots of words in quotes, including “campaign,” “expenditures,” and “spent.”

The reason I’ve done so is that such concepts don’t apply to Murtha.

In this century, Murtha has raised (and most spent) nearly $10 million. Although he comes from one of the poorer districts in the Mid-Atlantic region, he’s one of the biggest fundraisers in Congress. He raises about twice as much as the average U.S. congressional representative.

To hold his seat, given the huge Democratic edge in registration, he didn’t have to raise $10 million. In fact, he probably didn’t need to raise anything.

The $1.56 million he spent in 2004 is a giant red flag. How does someone spend such a huge amount of money in a race that’s already decided before the election season even begins? How does an unopposed candidate in a safe district spend more than candidates locked in tight races?


To understand, you need to know how Murtha conceives of being a federal representative. It’s merely a matter, as he’s said, “of making deals.” Campaign funding? He gets large earmarks, federal dollars, for companies that really don’t need them, and they reward him with giant contributions. They’re so grateful for all your federal dollars that they name buildings after him.

And what campaign expenditures – all those millions that never had to be raised or spent? Those are also payoffs to various people – printers, writers, photographers, billboard companies, private investigators, and others – who are financially dependent on Murtha.

The monies are basically payments for votes by various companies and their employees. “You scratch my back, and I scratch your back.”

It doesn’t really cost great piles of cash to campaign against nobody, as happened in 2004. The expenditures are really reminders to people of whom they’re dependent on: that is, Murtha.

In short, you give to Jack Murtha, and he returns the favors. The “expenditures” are a form of vote-buying. It's like a big recycling project, with dollars going back-and-forth.

What I’m telling you here is something that’s well-known in the 12th congressional district. Increasingly, the people in that area think it stinks, which it does. What does isn't exactly what The Founding Fathers had in mind.

Like Diana Irey before him, William Russell is a breath of fresh air. He needs and deserves your support.


In the generally wonderful, you'll read that, in federal races, the candidate who spends the most money wins 90%-plus of the time. That statistic is somewhat misleading.

William T. Russell is not going to spend nearly as much money as John Murtha, who may end up forking out $4 million. I don't know how much money Russell will raise, but it won't be anywhere near Murtha's financial numbers.

If Russell does everything right, he should win anyway. One thing he definitely needs is to try to shake every hand in the district.

The best way to get someone's vote is to ask for it. Ask enough people -- say, 100,000 of them -- and you will do well. The key is to convince enough Independents and, especially, Democrats that Lt. Col Russell is an outstanding person, a good man.

He's a Republican, a fact he won't emphasize in this Democrat-intensive area. He needs to share the other positive aspects of his story -- that he's a husband a father, that he's basically spent a lifetime in the military (born on an Army base), that he has defended American interests in Desert Storm, the Balkans, and Iraqi Freedom. Also, he's firmly asserted that he doesn't want any buildings named after him, unlike his narcissistic opponent.

John Murtha is an angry guy who's not aging well. He's widely known as a bully, especially in his dealings with younger congressmen and congresswomen. His major accomplishment is getting large handouts of federal money for companies that don't need the assistance. He's been a major supporter of people like Pelosi and Waxman, who have nothing in common with the people of Murtha's district. He's sold out to every lobbyist with a bagful of cash.

If Russell can get these points across, this could be real horserace.

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