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Murtha, Visclosky Diverge on Earmarks for PMA Clients

As Congress gears up for the 2010 appropriations cycle, two Members frequently mentioned in connection to the now-defunct PMA Group are taking dramatically different approaches to earmarks for the lobbying firm’s former clients.

Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, released dozens of earmark requests late Thursday, including millions of dollars for projects sponsored by former PMA clients.

Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.), who in previous years had sought earmarks for PMA clients, released his earmark list without a single request for a former PMA client.

The FBI raided the PMA Group offices last fall in an investigation reportedly concerning the firm’s campaign contributions. After the raid became public, the company dissolved, closing its doors last week.

Neither Murtha nor Visclosky has been charged with any wrongdoing.

Murtha has repeatedly defended his earmarks to PMA clients in his district, and his list of requests appears to take no notice of the lobbying firm’s problems. For example, Murtha is requesting $5 million for Advanced Acoustic Concepts to provide submarine navigation aids; $8 million for Argon ST to upgrade Navy torpedoes; $5 million for MTS Technologies to develop a maintenance system for military vehicles; and $2.3 million for Planning Systems Inc. to improve airdrop capabilities. All of the recipients are former PMA clients.

In total, Murtha offered 69 requests totaling more than $110 million.

Visclosky, on the other hand, made 55 earmark requests, largely benefiting local government agencies and totaling around $150 million. None of the earmarks benefit former clients of the PMA group.

In the 2008 appropriations cycle, Visclosky secured just under $24 million for PMA clients in 16 earmarks; in the 2009 appropriations bill, he secured five earmarks worth just more than $10 million for PMA clients, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense.

In a statement issued with his earmark request list, Murtha said he gets thousands of requests every year from organizations seeking earmarks. “Every request is properly reviewed and vetted through a lengthy and thorough process,— Murtha said. “In the end, we only recommend funding those that are cost-effective and provide a worthy service or product to the taxpayer.—

Visclosky issued a similar statement saying earmarks are “one way for me to ensure that Northwest Indiana receives needed federal assistance.—

The House Appropriations Committee is for the first time requiring Members to post their earmark requesting on their own Web sites before the panel begins assembling the spending bills. The deadline for making earmark requests public was originally today, but due to a software problem, the committee extended the deadline to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Members have taken broadly divergent paths to meeting this online posting requirement. Some posted the lists prominently on their home pages; other have buried them in a section of the site with no direction on where to find them.

Each Member’s request resides only on his or her own site; there is no central database of earmark requests.

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