Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa.
WASHINGTON – Incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi says she will fight for Rep. John Murtha, an unindicted co-conspirator in the FBI sting operation Abscam, as the next House majority leader.
U.S. Sen. Harrison Williams, D-N.J., and six House members agreed on camera in Abscam to take bribes from FBI agents posing as Arab sheikhs.
Though only 13 seconds of those tapes are available publicly showing Murtha conditionally declining a $50,000 bribe “at this point,” in his words, a 1980 Washington Post report by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative columnist Jack Anderson revealed a shocking transcript of recordings never released to the public.
Anderson characterized the Pennsylvania Democrat’s interaction with the FBI as “perhaps the saddest scene on the secret Abscam videotapes. … He refused to take the money, but his reason was hardly noble.”
“I want to deal with you guys awhile before I make any transactions at all, period,” Murtha explained. “After we’ve done some business, well, then I might change my mind. … I’m going to tell you this. If anybody can do it – I’m not B.S.-ing you fellows – I can get it done my way. There’s no question about it.”
Murtha went from boasting about his ability to get things done in Congress to explaining his hesitation about taking money.
“All at once, some dumb [expletive deleted] would go start talking eight years from now about this whole thing and say [expletive deleted], this happened,” Murtha says, according to the transcript. “Then in order to get immunity so he doesn’t go to jail, he starts talking and fingering people. So the [S.O.B.] falls apart.”
The FBI undercover officer then suggests: “You give us the banks where you want the money deposited.”
“All right,” agreed Murtha. “How much money we talking about?”
“Well, you tell me,” says the FBI undercover operative.
“Well, let me find out what is a reasonable figure that will get their attention,” said Murtha, “because there are a couple of banks that have really done me some favors in the past, and I’d like to put some money in.”
Here’s what Murtha says after the public video cuts off: “…You know, we do business together for a while. Maybe I’ll be interested and maybe I won’t. … Right now, I’m not interested in those other things. Now, I won’t say that some day, you know, I, if you made an offer, it may be I would change my mind some day.”
The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, CREW, questioned Pelosi’s endorsement of Murtha, listing the congressman in its report “Beyond DeLay: The 20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress (and five to watch).”
“Future House Speaker Pelosi’s endorsement of Rep. Murtha, one of the most unethical members of Congress, shows that she may have prioritized ethics reform merely to win votes with no real commitment to changing the culture of corruption,” said CREW’s executive director, Melanie Sloan.
Sloan said not only is Rep. Murtha beset by ethics issues, but the New York Times reported Oct. 2 he has consistently opposed ethics and earmark reform.