Murtha's 'Big-Game' Link
A big-game ranch in western Pennsylvania, where longtime Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) threw a lavish $100,000 fundraiser last year, is now at the center of a federal investigation.
Last week, federal agents raided a Kuchera Industries facility in Murtha's district along with the homes of the electronic firm's founders, Bill and Ronald Kuchera. Authorities declined to release details of the investigation.
But unnamed sources told the Tribune Democrat in Johnstown, Pa., that the federal investigation is focused on the use of corporate money for "unapproved purposes," namely a 161-acre private ranch run by Bill Kuchera.
Customers at the LBK Game Ranch in Summerhill, Pa., located about 80 miles east of Pittsburgh, pay a fee to hunt big game on the site; records show the ranch rakes in about $150,000 per year. Kuchera bought the property in May 2006 for roughly $800,000.
The ranch has been used in recent years to entertain clients and, last year, Murtha used the site for a $100,000 "high-end" fundraiser, according to the Tribune Democrat.
Federal Elections Commission records show that Kuchera Industries employees and their families contributed more than $60,000 to Murtha over the part three election cycles, and congressional lobbying disclosure forms show $140,000 in payments since 2001 from Kuchera to Ervin Technical Associates, whose chairman is Murtha ally and former Rep. Joseph M. McDade (R-Pa.).
In a 2006 Post article, Kuchera himself called Murtha "supportive of everything you can think of around here, from roads and sewers to defense contractors. But without Jack Murtha, there'd still be a Kuchera. We don't lean on Jack Murtha at all."
Murtha is well known as a champion of pork-barrel spending in his district, which is made up of once-impoverished former steel towns. In 2007, he snagged $162 million in federal earmarks, the most of any House member (he was named "Porker of the Year" by the watchdog group, Citizens Against Government Waste). "As the top Democrat on the House military spending subcommittee, he often delivers Democratic votes to Republican leaders in a tacit exchange for earmarks for himself and his allies," The New York Times noted.
Murtha's use of earmarks has come under attack in the past. In 1998, he helped start Concurrent Technologies, a tax-exempt charity that has grown into a contracting powerhouse despite its lackluster results, The Post's Robert O'Harrow found. Between 2003 and 2007, Concurrent received $226 million in earmarks from Murtha and other lawmakers.
Murtha and Kuchera met in 2001, when a Murtha aide approached the defense contracting firm about a non-profit being started for disabled workers. Kuchera joined the board of the non-profit, began employing more disabled workers and hired Ervin Technical Associates as his lobbying firm.
Murtha spokesman Matthew Mazonkey told UPI that the 19-term congressman's office "has a working relationship with most companies in our district. As far as this case is concerned, we have not been contacted by any of the agencies involved."
Kuchera Industries received $8.2 million in earmarks requested by Murtha last year.
By Derek Kravitz |
January 26, 2009; 4:16 PM ET
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