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Contractor tied to Murtha suspended

Associated Press / May 30, 2009
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WASHINGTON - A Pennsylvania defense contractor who got millions of dollars in congressional earmarks from Representative John P. Murtha has been blocked from doing business with the Navy amid allegations of fraud.

Word of the suspension came during an annual trade show featuring defense contractors gathered in Johnstown, Pa., the heart of Murtha's congressional district. Seven of the world's largest defense contractors, who have been among the veteran Pennsylvania Democrat's biggest campaign contributors over the years, helped bankroll the "Showcase for Commerce."

During a brief news conference yesterday at the event, Murtha turned aside questions about the suspension of Kuchera Defense Systems Inc., a family-run business that has supported him with $60,000 to his campaign and to his political action committee since 2002.

Over the past two years, Murtha has secured $14.7 million in congressionally directed funds known as "earmarks" for Kuchera to perform work for the military, a tiny slice of Murtha's earmarks overall.

Asked about Kuchera's troubles, Murtha said: "What's that got to do with me? What do you think, I'm supposed to oversee these companies? That's not my job. That's the Defense Department's job."

Murtha is chairman of one of the most powerful panels in Congress, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, where he has been a member for over two decades.

At the Pentagon, Lieutenant Clay Doss, Navy spokesman, said the Navy suspended Kuchera Defense Systems on April 23 for "alleged fraud, including multiple incidents of incorrect charges, defective pricing, and ethical violations."