Murtha Had Long Relationship With Defense Firm

Posted January 23, 2009 at 8:36am

Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) has had a close relationship with a defense contractor that was raided by federal agents Thursday. The FBI and other federal agencies raided the offices of Kuchera Defense Systems and its sister company Kuchera Industries, as well as the homes of two top executives, Ron Kuchera and Bill Kuchera, according to the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat. It is not clear what the federal agents are investigating, and there is no evidence that the investigation involves Murtha. Murtha has provided millions of dollars worth of earmarks for Kuchera companies and has regularly released press releases announcing millions more in contracts Kuchera has received from federal agencies. In April 2007, Murtha’s office announced that Kuchera had been awarded a 10-year subcontract through Raytheon that could ultimately be worth as much as $100 million. The contract was to provide a data system for missiles — called telemetry — that Kuchera admitted at the time it did not have the capability to build. “This contract further diversifies Kuchera’s portfolio and will provide new skill levels of manufacturing and test, which will improve the company’s long-term opportunities and competitiveness in the defense industry,” Murtha said in the release announcing the contract. “Telemetry manufacturing is a new capability for Kuchera Defense and will require new skill level training for employees,” Bill Kuchera said in the same release. “Kuchera will also be required to register for security clearances that will provide opportunities to seek future telemetry business.” As of late 2007, Bill Kuchera served on the board of directors of the Pennsylvania Association for Individuals with Disabilities, a nonprofit created by Murtha’s former chief of staff and supported by earmarks the Congressman provided. Kuchera Defense Systems claimed to employ dozens of people with disabilities referred by PAID. Since Roll Call wrote about PAID in 2007, the organization has removed information about its board of directors — including Murtha, the “Honorary Chairman” — and a person answering the phone at the PAID offices Friday morning said she could not say whether Bill Kuchera is still on the board. Employees of Kuchera companies have provided at least $60,000 in campaign contributions to Murtha and his political action committee since 2002, according to Federal Election Commission records. Murtha’s office did not respond to e-mail and telephone calls seeking comment.