How close is Rep. John P. "Jack" Murtha (D-PA) to the government-funded lab reportedly under federal investigation? Past issues of the lab’s internal newsletter give some insight.
“Congressman John P. Murtha. . . has been the principle driver. . . whose vision we work every day to fulfill,” wrote Karl Harris, director of the Electro Optics Center at Penn State, in one 2003 issue of “EOC NewsFlash.”
The center has received over $250 million in its 10 years; reports say “tens of millions” of those dollars have gone to clients of a lobby firm, PMA Group, with close ties to Murtha and his office. Federal investigators have reviewed documents and interviewed people who have worked at EOC, and the interviews included questions about Murtha as well as another lawmaker.
A 2002 EOC newsletter carried the bluntly-headlined article, “Murtha Brings Funding.” That piece noted that the center “was created and is funded annually through Murtha’s efforts.”
In a third, director Harris praised Murtha’s “vision and support” in having “first recognized” the need for the center. The cover story in that edition, from September 2003, is “Murtha Announces New EOC Facility.” It is accompanied by a group picture including Murtha and his grandson, also named Jack.
A Murtha spokesman was more modest about the congressman’s efforts. “I wish we could take credit for their success,” wrote Matthew Mazonkey in an email. “[B]ut it's the Center's researchers, engineers, and staff that deserve praise for saving taxpayers over 1 billion dollars and winning tens-of-millions of dollars in federal contracts annually.”
Mazonkey said he was “not aware” of any investigation into the center.