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The M that Matters: Not Murtha. Not Magliocchetti. Military.

Americans for Campaign Reform has a fact sheet to put the scandal of Magliocchetti campaign dough for earmark dollars in a broader context. Paul Magliocchetti and his family have funneled $1.5 million to members of Congress over the past twelve years, and that’s a significant outlay compared to what your family or my family could manage. In return, clients of Magliocchetti’s lobbying firm received hundreds of millions of dollars of in federal contracts last year alone, doled out in earmarks by the same members of Congress who got cash from the Magliocchetti family and Magliocchetti’s PMA Group employees.

A million and a half to members of Congress. Hundreds of millions back to lobbyist clients. It sounds like a significant problem, and it is. But the scope of the problem is minimized when we look at just one instance of payola and leave out any mention of the substantive policy impact. Across all politicians, the millions of campaign contributions tick off like an accountant with OCD. Across all earmarks, the spending runs to many billions of dollars — $47 billion in 2006 alone.

It’s not just the money that matters. The policy field of funding and lobbying and earmarking on which Paul Magliocchetti and John Murtha romp is consequential. Paul Magliocchetti lobbies for private corporations who build weapons systems. The earmarks doled out by Rep. Murtha are military contracts to design and build weapons of war. In the end, the M that matters is not Murtha and it’s not Magliocchetti. The M stands for Military, and the Murtha-Magliocchetti case is surrounded by many others. The scandal of Virgil Goode and MZM involved allegations of corruption: campaign cash for military contracts. The scandal of Randy “Duke” Cunningham involved allegations of contributions and bribes for, you guessed it, military contracts. These scandals tend to burst into public consciousness in connection with some associated tawdriness involving drugs, sex or gambling; in the meantime, less flamboyant politicians like Steny Hoyer quietly pull in campaign contributions and dole out military contracts, year after year after year.

Billions and billions of dollars in military contracts following millions and millions of dollars in campaign contributions. That’s part one of the story. Consider part two of the story: what the political corruption in military contracting leads to. It leads to weapons. Big, destructive weapons. Big, destructive weapons that kill people. The money funneled to politicians is meant to influence our representatives in Washington; it’s meant to push them into supporting more money for more weapons, bigger money for bigger weapons. The best way to keep the money for weapons going is to use them. Who cheered on the idea of a war of choice against Iraq? Who made money? Who died?

People are getting killed while others make money and use that money to make sure more people get killed. That’s why nailing down the details of the transactions between the Murthas and Magliocchettis and MZMs and Hoyers and Cunninghams and Goodes of the world matter.

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