Say 'Ab-Scram' To the Abscammer:
Jack Murtha proves there are second acts in American politics. I had forgotten that federal prosecutors designated him an unindicted co-conspirator in the controversial Abscam investigation that took place 26 years ago.
I was reminded of it after Murtha became a candidate for majority leader, not by a Republican hit man but a Democratic former colleague in the House. In a long political career, Murtha has made bitter enemies inside his party who are alarmed by his new stature.
Murtha got into politics in 1968 as a 36-year-old highly decorated Marine and in 1974 became the first Vietnam War veteran elected to Congress. By 1980, Murtha was a lieutenant of Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill and was moving to the top in the House when the FBI named him as one of eight members of Congress videotaped being offered bribes by a phony Arab sheik.
The other seven congressional targets took cash and were convicted in federal court. The videotape showed Murtha declining to take cash but expressing interest in further negotiations, while bragging about his political influence.
Murtha testified against the popular Rep. Frank Thompson in the Abscam case, which created lifelong enemies in the Democratic cloakroom. The House Ethics Committee exonerated Murtha of misconduct charges by a largely party-line vote, after which the committee's special counsel resigned in protest.