Murtha Defends Earmarks for Johnstown Area

Posted May 29, 2009 at 10:05am

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) on Friday vigorously defended the hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks he has secured for his Rust Belt district and said he is not responsible for wrongdoing by companies that have received those earmarks.

Speaking at his annual conference here for nearly 200 contractors, Murtha acknowledged that “the big contractors come in because of me. But they save money, and that’s the key.—

As ranking member and now chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, Murtha has steered hundreds of millions of dollars to defense projects in the district, and many of the beneficiaries have grown from startup firms to major companies with hundreds of employees with his assistance.

Murtha said the low cost of living in the area, as well as environmental and infrastructure improvements made through other earmarks he has provided, make the region an attractive place for large national companies to set up branch offices.

Murtha made brief remarks at a press conference but took no questions from the press. Afterward, he was surrounded by reporters interested in his role in numerous federal investigations of companies that have benefitted from his earmarks.

When a reporter asked about Kuchera Defense Systems, a Windber, Pa., company that has been very close to Murtha and was raided by federal agents, he barked, “What’s that got to do with me?—

Murtha was warmly greeted Thursday night by owner Bill Kuchera at the Kuchera Defense Systems exhibit, and the two men chatted for several minutes at the booth.

On Friday Murtha said, “What do you think, I’m supposed to oversee these companies? That’s the Defense Department’s job, that’s not my job.—

When the reporter asked if Murtha has hired a lawyer, the Congressman snapped, “What kind of question is that?— and marched out of the room.

Speaking at a breakfast earlier in the day, Murtha appeared to choke up while discussing the changes he has seen in the region over the decades.

“My great grandmother, when I was six years old, said, You are put here to make a difference,’— Murtha said. “We have made a difference in this area, and I am proud of everything we’ve done.—