Firm Tied to Murtha Earmarks Goes Dark
A lobbying firm with close ties to the late Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) — and a central player in some of the most questionable earmarks sponsored by Murtha — appears to have closed its doors.
KSA Consulting was at the center of a project that led to the first criminal convictions tied to a Murtha earmark. The firm at one point employed Murtha’s brother Kit as a lobbyist, as well as Carmen Scialabba, Murtha’s longtime Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense aide.
A database maintained by the Clerk of the House indicates that KSA has not filed lobbying disclosure forms since July despite a requirement that disclosures be filed quarterly. The firm filed its forms last summer only after Roll Call called to inquire about missing documents.
The firm has not filed terminations indicating that it is no longer representing the clients it had last summer.
But the KSA Web site has been shut down, e-mail messages to staff members are returned as undeliverable and phone calls to the firm’s office are received by an answering service that does not mention KSA Consulting.
Phone messages left for several KSA staffers were not returned.
KSA long had a close relationship with Murtha, who died in February of complications from gallbladder surgery.
The company helped broker earmarks for clients in Murtha’s district, and its executives were also directors of a nonprofit disability assistance group that Murtha helped found called the Pennsylvania Association for Individuals With Disabilities.
KSA’s Ken Stalder was key in helping the Air Force establish a program called Battlefield Airmen to provide modern high-tech communications equipment to soldiers operating in the field.
As Roll Call previously reported, the Air Force intended for contractors — many of them KSA clients — to lobby Congress for earmarks to fund the program. The minutes of a 2005 meeting at a Pennsylvania resort that served as the genesis for the Air Force program indicate that Stalder was the driving force behind Congressional earmarks for the project and that Murtha’s district director supported the plan.
One of the earmarks the group eventually obtained was an $8.2 million earmark that Murtha provided for KSA client Coherent Systems, taking the money from an earlier project he had funded for former KSA client AEPTEC Microsystems.
Coherent CEO Richard Ianieri pleaded guilty last year along with Air Force program manager Mark O’Hair to a scheme in which money provided for that project was diverted to other companies, including some that O’Hair owned. Florida defense contractor Richard Schaller was convicted by a jury for his participation in the same scheme.
According to the statement of facts submitted by Ianieri as part of his guilty plea, Coherent paid several companies for products that were not part of the earmark it had received. Two of those companies, Gensym and VidiaFusion, were KSA clients.
VidiaFusion was run by Michael Hoban, a former executive at AEPTEC, who is now listed as a partner with Stalder and Scialabba in a new venture, Think Green Funding Solutions, a consulting firm that helps companies sell green energy technologies to the government, according to its Web site.
Think Green was launched in September in partnership with New York-based venture capital firm Think Green Global, but a spokesman for the firm said they have had basically no dealings with Stalder, Hoban or Think Green Funding Solutions since the launch.
The D.C. group was intended to operate on a contract basis with the New York group, providing consulting assistance to clients as needed, but the New York group “has done no real business with [the D.C. group] at all,” the spokesman said, and the D.C. group has no ownership of the New York firm.
Think Green Funding Solutions lists as its address a downtown Washington suite that houses dozens of companies in “virtual offices,” but the receptionist there had never heard of the company. The phone number listed on the Web site rings at the New York venture capital firm, and messages sent to the D.C. e-mail address bounce back as undeliverable.
The Web site for the D.C. Think Green office indicates that one of its services is “developing and increasing Congressional funds for specific project areas,” but the firm is not registered to lobby Congress.
Several sources said the former KSA employees have another consulting firm, Edge Solutions. Maryland corporate records show a firm by that name registered at the home address of Richard Weiss, one of the KSA partners who is also listed on the Think Green Web site, but no further information about that group was available, and an e-mail sent at the Edge Solutions Web site was not returned.
KSA was also the lobbying firm for KDH Defense Systems, which Murtha provided with earmarks worth more than $3 million for a “swimmer detection” sonar system for the Navy to protect its docks and ships.
But KDH sews bulletproof vests. It had never built a sonar system and had no expertise in sonar engineering, and as Roll Call reported last year, the swimmer detection system has been mired in litigation and has not been deployed. With KSA’s assistance, KDH also received millions of dollars in earmarks for its vests.