Last week’s release of FBI documents finally put in writing what nobody had ever said on the record: The FBI suspected that former Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) and lobbyists close to him were running a scheme to funnel earmarks to sham companies and nonprofits to benefit the lawmaker’s friends and former staffers.
Bits and pieces of this story were kicked around for years before Murtha died in February 2010. The Los Angeles Times, Roll Call, the Washington Post and others had documented the odd appearance of earmarks for tiny defense contractors that just happened to open an office in western Pennsylvania and just happened to hire one of the lobbying firms close to Murtha and just happened to begin making campaign donations to Murtha and other Members of Congress close to him.
Reporters could do little but assemble the coincidences and couldn’t prove there was anything wrong with the bigger picture.
But it turns out the FBI was reading the stories and was very interested — interested enough that the Justice Department had opened a criminal investigation into Murtha and some of the lobbyists in his orbit, a fact that never leaked while Murtha was alive.