Sen. Lou DeLuca has now been “done in” by most commentators and editorial boards. It’s difficult to see how he can survive the drubbing, and it is safe to predict that his days in the state senate soon will be drawing to a close.
The Harford Courant has, somewhat tardily, called for DeLuca’s resignation from the senate. DeLuca has stepped down as Minority Leader for Republicans but continues to cling on to his seat by (pun intended) the seat of his pants.
“And Mr. DeLuca,” the Courant intoned two days before two of its columnists, Kevine Rennie and Bill Currry opened fire in the Sunday edition of the paper, “ a Woodbury Republican, was wrong again last week in deciding not to resign his seat in the Senate. Resigning would be the honorable thing to do, but Mr. DeLuca is nothing if not consistent.”
Rennie, whose jeweler’s eye was trained on prosecutorial inconsistencies, in addition to holding aloft DeLuca’s severed head, also lambasted prosecutors who arrogantly refused to settle what may become a legal point in dispute between DeLuca’s lawyer and Waterbury police chief Neil O’Leary. DeLuca claims the chief was told that his daughter was being abused by her then boyfriend Mark Collela. The chief says “No,” Deluca never complained of abuse. This dispute could easily be settled by prosecutors.
“DeLuca's lawyer,” Rennie wrote in his column, “has called on the feds to release the information they gathered in verifying DeLuca's story. They have refused, citing the continuing investigation of Galante.
“Federal law enforcement officials were eager to include pages of extraneous information in the arrest warrant fatal to DeLuca's political prospects. They weren't worried about an ongoing investigation when they wanted the spotlight; now they hide.”
Rennie’s left leaning compatriot at the courant, Bill Curry, compared the DeLuca mess to other federal prosecutions.
“DeLuca,” Curry wrote, “is part of a trend bordering on an epidemic. Last week, Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson, whose freezer full of greenbacks gave new meaning to the phrase ‘cold hard cash,’ clung to office, while Attorney General Alberto Gonzales blithely ignored a lopsided Senate vote calling for his removal and Republican presidential candidates signed en masse onto the ‘free Scooter’ movement, which would have President Bush grant an instant pardon to I. Lewis Libby.”
However, the name John Murtha, just now the darling of anti-war sentimentalists, has yet to surface in Connecticut’s timid public commentary.
One wonders why, particularly since the state’s newest congresspersons may be in danger of being corrupted by the powerful Earmark-In-Chief of the defense industry. The defense industry in Connecticut is tied by a congressional umbilical cord to John “The Earmark King” Murtha, and the parallels between the Murtha and DeLuca FBI stings are so similar as to be jarring to anyone who has seen the Earmark King’s performance in a tape now available on YouTube. The YouTube drama previously had been available in brief clips; this is the whole unbelievable enchilada.
Both Murtha and DeLuca were the subjects of FBI sting operations. Both were offered bribes, refused them, but did not report the bribe attempts to the relevant authorities. Both promised to perform favors for the principals on whose behalf the bribes were offered by FBI agents posing as corrupt businessmen. Neither case went to trial. DeLuca resigned his post as minority leader in the senate. A grand jury returned indictments against Murtha as a co-conspirator in an ABSCAM corruption case, and the tape showing Murtha wheeling and dealing with prospective bribers is at least as damning as DeLuca’s pitiful conviction.
“DeLuca,” Rennie wrote, “finally agreed to a deal that had him pleading to a state, not federal, misdemeanor (italics mine) more than a year after the statute of limitations had expired on the crime. The arrest warrant application was larded with jarring nuggets from the federal investigation that were irrelevant to the misdemeanor charge. State officials did not conduct their own investigation. It was not much of a criminal tale, but it was a devastating indictment of DeLuca's misuse of his political power and casual attitude toward the bribery attempt. Public revulsion, not the muted response of the political class, guaranteed that DeLuca would at least have to resign as the Republican leader.”
DeLuca told the FBI agent posing as a Gallante confederate that he could not accept the bribe but he would do all in his power to help him.
Murtha also refused a bribe from an FBI agent posing as the representative of a wealthy Arab merchant who wanted Murtha’s help in relocating to Pennsylvania, the Earmark King’s turf. But he promises help – lots of help. He suggests that the money offered him can be cleaned by filtering it though legitimate businesses. Mutha knows a couple of bankers who would be happy with the donation; he suggests that the money might be invested in a couple of mines in his home state that have run up against hard times. And his refusal of the bribe money is contingent. He cannot accept it without getting into hot water at the moment. But, Murtha says, after the representatives of the wealthy Arab merchant and his confederates have done business for awhile, maybe it might be possible. DeLuca refused the bribe outright for similar reasons.
No one in Connecticut’s press has yet drawn attention to these stunning parallels.
A partial answwer is provided by Stephen Spruill writing in National Review Magazine.
An unindicted co-conspirator in the 1980 Abscam sting operation, Spruill notes, Murtha “has consistently opposed tougher ethics rules and has actually co-sponsored legislation to make it harder to investigate members of Congress. In 1998, he and Pennsylvania Republican Joe McDade (who was indicted but acquitted on bribery charges in the early 1990s) sponsored a bill to create a congressionally appointed review board with oversight into Justice Department investigations of lawmakers’ activities. At the time, congressional watchdog groups called it the Corrupt Politicians’ Protection Board. More recently, Murtha referred to the Democrats’ latest attempts at ethics reform as ‘total crap.’’’
Murtha is not the sort of guy who, living in a glass house, refuses to throw stones. When a Republican member of the unruly House of Representatives recently sought to deprive Murtha of an earmark slated to benefit one of his fat cat contributors – not a wealthy Arab businessman this time -- Murtha erupted in rage on the House floor.
Early in May, Republican Rep. Mike Rogers introduced a motion to delete a $23 million earmark for the National Drug Intelligence Center from the intelligence authorization bill. Rogers reasoned that since other agencies audited the center, the $23 million authorization was a needless duplication and a waste of taxpayer’s money. Roger’s motion followed the passage of a new rules package in January that forbade members to link earmarks with votes on bills. But there was a problem with Rogers’ probity: The earmark was sponsored by Murtha, who told Rogers on the floor of the House, “I hope you don’t have any earmarks in the defense appropriation bill because they are gone, and you will not get any earmarks now and forever.” Rogers told Murtha that this was not the way to handle their dispute. Said the Earmark King, “That’s the way I do it.”
Undetered, Rogers then introduced a motion to reprimand Murtha for violating the new rule. All but two House Democrats then voted to snuff the resolution because, Republican supposed, Murtha is the keeper of the earmarks. Given that Democrats had earlier been wafted into office on promises to inaugurate a kinder, gentler and ethically cleaner congress, Rogers’ reaction was overly polite. He said, “I wasn’t surprised that [the Democrats] took the partisan position on [the resolution], but I was a little surprised that they didn’t allow the debate . . . or at least refer it to the ethics committee on their own. They took neither option. They basically said, ‘We’re not even going to talk about it.’”
Omerta is alive and well in the U.S. Congress, and so is shameless hypocrisy.
Given the unindicted co-conspirator’s track record on the ABSCAM investigation, Murtha’s failure to report a bribe attempt to the FBI and his flouting of congressional rules – the rule, in fact, that proved to be the Democrat’s passport into the congress -- is it not amazing that not one of our tempestuous commentators has remarked that Murtha, like DeLuca, just has got to go?
Well, it’s not too amazing when one realizes that Murtha holds the purse strings to defense spending right here in the nutmeg state, the home of the Groton sub base, Senators Chris Dodd and Joe Lieberman, and Reps. Chris Shays, Rosa DeLauro, Joe Courtney and Jim Murphy, none of whom were among the two honorable House Democrats who voted to uphold their campaign promise to scrub the congress free of corruption – proving that that Murtha was right after all when he said that attempts at ethics reform were “total crap.”