Murtha soft-pedals federal probe inquiries

'Not his job' to oversee companies


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JOHNSTOWN, Pa. -- Congressman John Murtha -- hosting his 19th annual convention for military contractors here -- was in no mood yesterday to take questions about federal investigations of companies tied to him, or the federal largesse he spreads around his congressional district.

In January, federal investigators raided the offices of one of the local firms -- Kuchera Defense Systems -- with ties to the military appropriations subcommittee chairman. The congressman has steered millions of dollars in contracts to the Windber, Pa., firm and its affiliate Kuchera Industries, and its executives are among his biggest campaign contributors.

"So what's that got to do with me?" he said, when asked by a reporter about the investigation. "Wait a minute. What do you think, I oversee these companies? That's the Defense Department's job. That's not my job. You guys write these stories [but] you don't have a clue what this is all about."

A federal grand jury has also subpoenaed records of another appropriations committee member -- U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Indiana -- in a criminal probe involving a Washington-area lobbying firm that specialized in providing congressional earmarks to defense contractors.

Mr. Visclosky said yesterday that the subpoenas went to his congressional office, campaign committees and some of his employees and that they demanded documents related to the firm PMA Group. The founder of the now-defunct company, Paul Magliocchetti, is a former Murtha staffer.

One out of every four dollars in political donations to Mr. Visclosky over the past seven years came from clients of PMA. Mr. Magliocchetti is under criminal investigation.

Mr. Murtha's news conference was held after his annual announcement of federal contracts getting awarded to local firms. This year's tally: $110 million in funding, to three local companies.

CTC -- another firm under investigation -- received two contracts: one of $16 million for a Marine Corps data program and another for $50 million for services to the Department of Defense and other federal agencies. (Federal agencies subpoenaed records from a CTC subsidiary earlier this year.)

JWF Defense Systems of Johnstown won a $24 million contract for assembly of military vehicles.

Martin-Baker America -- a Johnstown subsidiary of the English firm -- won a $20 million contract for Air Force ejection seats.

The announcements were made during the second day of the Showcase For Commerce, a trade show at the Cambria County War Memorial arena that matches international defense firms with local businesses.


The Associated Press contributed to this report. Tim McNulty can be reached at tmcnulty@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1581.


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