WASHINGTON – Defense contractors as well as Pennsylvania businesses and universities seeking federal funding have worked to raise money for a charity started by an aide to Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., The Washington Post reported Sunday.
The Pennsylvania Association for Individuals with Disabilities began in 2001 and was led by Carmen Scialabba, who had been an aide to Murtha for nearly three decades. The group helps disabled people find work; Scialabba uses a wheelchair.
According to the Post, some of the lobbyists who serve as directors on the nonprofit group's board have served as "intermediaries" between Murtha, his aides and the defense contractors and businessmen on the board.
The Post, citing Federal Election Commission records and lobbying disclosure forms, said the contractors, businesses and universities got millions of federal dollars; lobbyists made hundreds of thousands in consulting and lobbying fees; and the association's directors donated to Murtha's re-election campaigns.
Steve Ellis, vice president of the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense, told the Post: "It's a real tangled web between the congressman, the nonprofit, the defense contractors and the lobbyists. It's hard to say where one stops and the others start."
The Post said Murtha declined to respond to numerous phone calls and e-mails seeking comment.
But Scialabba told the Post, "Everyone's trying to make this a political thing, and it makes me very mad."
Murtha was incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's choice to be House majority leader when Congress returns in January, but he lost a vote to Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md. Murtha, 74, was a problematic candidate because of his penchant for trading votes for pet projects in his home state. He was also tied to the Abscam bribery sting in 1980, the only lawmaker involved who wasn't charged.