The Earmark That Couldn’t Get Shot Down

Photo courtesy of Northrop Grumman.

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The over-budget and technically flawed Kinetic Energy Interceptor program may have been axed by the Pentagon this spring, but it lives on in the earmark-laden defense appropriations bill currently under consideration by the House. You know, the bill that Obama threatened to veto because it contained billions in pet projects for lawmakers seeking to bring home the bacon to their districts. Much of the work for the KEI project, a missile defense system designed to “destroy enemy ballistic missiles during their boost and early midcourse phases of flight,” happens to be taking place in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. That’s the hometown of Jack Murtha, whose unrivaled and unapologetic pursuit of pork has earned him congressional infamy—and landed him uncomfortably close to an FBI probe targeting lobbyists and defense contractors with whom he’s had dealings. The Washington Post points to one reason why the terminated KEI program is nevertheless poised to reap an additional $80 million in the appropriations bill. 

…Northrop Grumman, the principal contractor, is building a technology center in Murtha’s district that would bring 150 related jobs, and Murtha’s subcommittee sought its continuation as a way “to recoup the technology,” according to an appropriations staff member, who was not authorized to speak on the record.

 

Taxpayers for Common Sense offers some additional details, observing that a subcontractor working on the KEI project is Kuchera Defense Systems. The Pennsylvania-based company, to which Murtha has steered millions in earmarks over the years, was raided by the FBI in January and is the subject of an ongoing investigation.

Today, Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) and Rush Holt (D-TK) took a stab at intercepting the KEI funding, introducing an amendment to strike it from the legislation. Earlier this afternoon, though, that measure failed, along with a raft of earmark eradicating amendments offered by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). At this rate, it looks like there’s little hope of shooting down the KEI earmark.

Follow Daniel Schulman on Twitter.

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Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

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Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

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