03 December 2006
Murtha and Abscam / Deal or No Deal / Real Classy Guy
It's Congressional Ethics Night on Vleeptron.
If you Google "Abscam" and "Murtha", you get some violent anti-Murtha sites by people who are ripshit about Murtha's anti-Iraq-War activities.
This is Wikipedia's take on U.S. Rep. John Murtha's involvement in the FBI's Abscam corruption sting.
Leave all the nasty Comments you want, but Wikipedia's just not political, I keep finding it thoroughly factually reliable, with no perceivable political axe to grind.
But anyway, here's a guy making a run for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in 2008, here's what he was up to in 1980. Or so says Wikipedia. With links to watch the video and make up your own mind.
But Vleeptron calls your attention to the Congressional ethics rules at the time: Every member was obligated to report any bribe attempt to the FBI.
Oh -- there was one guy, Senator Larry Pressler (Republican of South Dakota) ...
... refused to take the bribe, saying [while secretly being filmed] at the time, "Wait a minute, what you are suggesting may be illegal." He immediately reported the incident to the FBI. When Senator Pressler was told Walter Cronkite referred to him on the evening news as a "hero" he stated, "I do not consider myself a hero ... what have we come to if turning down a bribe is 'heroic'?"
Abscam (sometimes ABSCAM) was an FBI sting operation run out of the FBI's Hauppauge, Long Island, [New York] office. The operation initially targeted trafficking in stolen property but was converted to a public corruption investigation.
The investigation ultimately led to the conviction of a United States Senator, six members of the House of Representatives, the Mayor of Camden, New Jersey, members of the Philadelphia City Council, and an inspector for the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
How the sting worked
The FBI set up "Abdul Enterprises, Ltd." in 1978. FBI employees posed as Middle Eastern businessmen in videotaped talks with government officials, where they offered money in return for political favors to a non-existent sheik. A house (4407 W St. NW, Washington, DC), along with a yacht in Florida and hotel rooms in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, were used to set up meetings between various public officials and a mysterious Arab sheik named Abdul who wanted:
* To purchase asylum in the U.S.
* To involve them in an investment scheme
* To get help in getting his money out of his country
Much of the operation was directed by Melvin Weinberg, a convicted con artist, who was hired by the FBI for that purpose. It was the first major operation by the FBI to trap corrupt public officials; up until 1970 only ten members of Congress had ever been convicted of accepting bribes.
On February 2, 1980, reports surfaced that FBI personnel were targeting members of Congress in a sting operation. The media dubbed the operation "Abscam" after the name of the company.
Of the thirty-one targeted officials, one senator, Harrison A. Williams (Democrat, New Jersey), and five members of the House of Representatives
* John Jenrette (D-South Carolina)
* Richard Kelly (R-Florida)
* Raymond Lederer (D-Pennsylvania)
* Michael "Ozzie" Myers (D-Pennsylvania)
* Frank Thompson (D-New Jersey)
were convicted of bribery and conspiracy in separate trials in 1981. While most of the politicians resigned, Myers had to be expelled and Williams did not resign until the vote on his expulsion was almost due. Five other government officials were convicted, including the mayor of Camden, New Jersey, Angelo Errichetti; members of the Philadelphia City Council; and an inspector for the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
[see the Wikipedia article for the conviction and imprisonment of U.S. Senator Harrison A. Williams (D-NJ), now deceased.]
John Murtha's involvement
Congressman John Murtha (Democrat-Pennsylvania) was not indicted or prosecuted, though he was named by the Justice Department as an unindicted co-conspirator.
An excerpt of the FBI videotaped Murtha as saying, "I'm not interested ... at this point. [If] we do business for a while, maybe I'll be interested, maybe I won't," to $50,000 cash right after Murtha had offered to provide names of businesses and banks in his district where money could be legally invested. 
Links to the actual videos of his involvement can be found at the following two links (Warning NSFW, Strong Language)  and  Full length versions of the tape  show that the FBI undercover operative repeatedly attempted to offer Rep. Murtha money, whereby Rep. Murtha declined.
The U.S. Attorneys Office declined prosecution of Mr. Murtha, reasoning that the Congressman's intent was to obtain investment in his district, the very premise of the FBI operation. Retired FBI Agents familiar with the investigation felt that Murtha was "stringing along" a group of "businessmen", seeing whether they would "put up or shut up" and invest in Western Pennsylvania.  Mr. Murtha's district had been extremely hard hit economically. Full length viewing of the tape reveal Murtha citing prospective investment opportunities that could return "500 or 1000" miners to work.
In November 1980, the Justice Department announced that Murtha would not face prosecution for his part in the scandal. In July 1981, the House ethics committee also chose not to file charges against Congressman Murtha, following a mostly party line vote, after which Republican E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr., the panel's special counsel, abruptly resigned in protest. House ethics rules require members to immediately report any bribe offers to the FBI; Murtha failed to make such a report in clear violation of these rules.
Mr. Murtha has been reelected by his constituency for 13 terms in 26 years despite his involvement in ABSCAM and his failure to report the videotaped bribe offer, as required by House ethics rules.