Mr. Murtha has been a force against stronger ethics and lobbying rules. He was one of just four Democrats whose votes helped kill a strong Democratic package of lobbying reforms this spring.
As a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, he has been an avid participant in the orgy of earmarking, including numerous projects sought by a lobbying firm that employed his brother. During the Abscam congressional bribery investigation in 1980, Mr. Murtha was videotaped discussing a bribe with an undercover FBI agent. (“You know, we do business for a while, maybe I’ll be interested, maybe I won’t, you know,” Mr. Murtha said.) He wasn’t indicted, but it’s fair to say the episode raised questions about his integrity.
By publicly endorsing Murtha – who has voted more with the Republicans than almost every other House Democrat – Pelosi has backed the fellow who has been less loyal to the party, who has engaged in liberal-baiting, and who is widely considered to be the underdog in the race. Murtha is indeed the Democrats’ leading critic of the war, and he and Pelosi, another war opponent, have found themselves in the same foxhole. (Hoyer, like Murtha, voted to give Bush the authority to attack Iraq, but he has not turned on the war and has criticized Democratic calls for withdrawal.) Perhaps Pelosi figured that with the Iraq war likely to be the major source of dispute between her and the White House (and congressional Republicans), she needed an antiwar hawk right by her side. But much of this present tussle might be more personal than policy. Pelosi and Hoyer have long been rivals; she defeated Hoyer to become the Democratic minority leader.