Hoyer Defers Questions About Murtha to Ethics Panel

Posted May 5, 2009 at 12:40pm

With the ethics troubles of Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) continuing to make headlines — and headaches for Democratic leaders — Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday again deferred any action on the matter to the House ethics investigators.

“I’ve historically said and continue to believe the ethics committee should, in fact, look at any specific allegations of rules violations that have occurred,— Hoyer told reporters at his weekly press conference.

The Maryland Democrat is no ally of Murtha, whom he handily defeated for the No. 2 slot in leadership after the 2006 elections. Last year, as Murtha fended off a surprisingly strong re-election challenge, Hoyer was the only member of leadership that declined to contribute last-minute campaign cash to help bail him out.

Murtha is in hot water again these days, facing unrelenting media scrutiny for his earmarking activities while a federal probe continues into the PMA Group, a now-defunct lobbying firm with close ties to him.

The difference now is that Murtha’s problems are creating a distraction for the majority as they seek to move President Barack Obama’s sweeping agenda. The latest hit came on Tuesday, in a front-page Washington Post story detailing multimillion-dollar military contracts secured by Murtha’s nephew.

Hoyer on Tuesday offered his first specific comments about the matter, calling the questions surrounding Murtha “not very clear-cut, obviously, I think.—

“When I say obviously,’ I don’t think its very clear-cut in terms of what wrongdoing may have occurred,— Hoyer said.

A coalition of good-government advocates last week pressed the House ethics committee to investigate Murtha’s ties to PMA, along with those of two other senior defense appropriators, Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.).

In a letter to the panel, the groups left the subject of a possible inquiry open-ended, arguing investigators should probe whether millions of dollars in campaign contributions the lobbying firm generated for Members influenced the tens of millions of dollars the lawmakers secured for PMA clients.

Hoyer on Tuesday said the ethics committee “has a responsibility and duty to take up matters, particularly that are in the public, but also if they know them privately, to assure ethical conduct on behalf of the Members of the House and the House itself. And I would hope and expect them to be doing so.—