Drug Policy

Mary Beth Buchanan vs. John Murtha: Which One Do You Root For?


A couple of years ago, I worried that the 2008 presidential race would come down to Rudy Giuliani vs. Hillary Clinton, in which case I would have had a hard time deciding who was worse. Here is a similarly challenging choice: In a match-up between Mary Beth Buchanan and John Murtha, which one do you root for? As Charlie Deitch notes in a Pittsburgh City Paper profile, the U.S. attorney for western Pennsylvania, who is famous for prosecuting pornographers, paraphernalia producers, and pain doctors, is rumored to be contemplating charges against the 18-term congressman from Johnstown, who is famous for taking campaign contributions from local businesses to which he funnels taxpayer money. Doesn't Buchanan know that Murtha is corrupt only because he's exceptionally good at serving his constituents?

As we saw in the case of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, another longtime legislator with legendary pork-pulling abilities, it's very hard to demonstrate a connection between campaign contributions (or, in Stevens' case, personal gifts) and official actions: The prosecutors who went after Stevens did not even try, and they convicted him of gift concealment only by cheating. In any event, Buchanan may run out of time; although she has said she wants to stay, Deitch reports the president's advisers are batting around names of possible replacements. The profile, which focuses on Buchanan's most controversial cases, is well worth reading (and not just because it quotes me).

More on Buchanan here. More on Murtha here.