Despite her uphill battle against Congressman Jack Murtha, Diana Irey remains confident that Pennsylvania’s 12th District is poised to end his shameful career. While falsely accusing American troops of unspeakable acts from the House floor and trading votes for bribes and pork projects, Murtha has enjoyed the ease of incumbency for much too long. Irey’s campaign set up the website YouDontKnowJack.org, which details the disgrace Murtha has brought to his office.
Her campaign has gained national interest, garnering donations from all 50 states and a record total from Rightroots. I recently talked with Irey about the issues affecting Pennsylvanians, Murtha’s record and conservative women in politics.
How has being Washington County commissioner prepared you for representing Pennsylvania’s 12th District in the U.S. Congress?
Elected in 1995, I am serving in my eleventh year as a commissioner, and am the first woman ever to occupy that post. I have worked hard, in a bipartisan fashion, in order to solve problems and create real solutions. My career as a commissioner shows a record of fiscal discipline, including balancing seven straight budgets without a tax increase. I fought hard to reduce spending, and have been committed to economic development and job creation that revolves around small business and entrepreneurship, creating a positive business climate that attracts new businesses, rather than giving tax incentives to businesses in order to relocate. Additionally, I have stood firm on social issues such as restoring the pledge of allegiance and prayer in each public meeting.
What are the most important issues in this campaign? What do you think will drive people to the polls?
There are many issues in this race, and Congressman Murtha and I disagree on many levels. Most people are aware that the war in Iraq has become a major issue in this race, but our differences are simple, he says “cut and run”, and I say “win.” However, the most important issue that has entered the voters’ minds here in the 12th District has been Congressman Murtha’s history of corruption. Early in his term, he was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the Abscam scandal, of which the full FBI surveillance tape was recently released, and it clearly showed that the Congressman had struck a deal to take a $50,000 bribe. Additionally, he was recently listed as one of the most corrupt members of congress by the Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. More recently, Murtha was subject of a New York Times piece titled “Trading Votes for Pork Across the House Aisle,” where he said, “Deal making is what Congress is all about.” The voters now know Congressman Murtha’s history, and want a change. I believe they will be voting for me because I am principled leader who believes we need to clean up Washington, and after 32 years, Jack Murtha needs to go.
Conservatives often talk about wresting power from the federal government. What do you think is the role of a U.S. representative?
First and foremost, in this era of corruption in Washington, D.C., the role of a U.S. representative should be to adhere to a standard of conduct and ethics in Washington. For too long, on both sides of the aisle, our leaders have not been accountable to the American people. Specifically, my opponent, Jack Murtha, has been a ring leader for the corruption movement in Washington. It is important that a member of the House understand that they serve in the “people’s chamber” of congress. There is a reason that spending bills are only originated in the House, and that is because the members of the House are supposed to be in touch with the issues that are most important to the populace. As we know, this is not always the case, and it is certainly not the case of Jack Murtha, who has become a quintessential, inside the beltway politician. When elected, I view my role as a congresswoman as being accountable to the people, understanding the role that the U.S. Congress plays under the three branches of government, and making principled decisions that will not impose undue government infringement on the lives of American citizens.
How is your campaign exposing Congressman Murtha’s history of corruption?
Again, his history of corruption is beginning to come to light on its own. His role in Abscam, his questionable ties to lobbyists, and him being listed as one of the most corrupt members of congress, has shown a pattern that has existed for years. In fact, I recently hand delivered a letter to the U.S. attorney’s office, asking that an investigation be opened on Congressman Murtha’s illegal and inappropriate actions. Additionally, Jack Murtha is famous for hosting a welcome-back party for a congressional staffer who was convicted of taking bribes from a lobbyist. Moreover, he supported legislation that would have taxpayer dollars pay for the legal bills of members of congress who have been convicted of wrongdoing. His corrupt behavior has hurt our district, and has hurt our country, and we need to clean up Washington by voting out people like Jack Murtha.
How have people in your campaign’s district responded to Congressman Murtha’s comments on the global war on terrorism and troops stationed in Iraq?
Without a doubt, Mr. Murtha’s attacks on our military have incensed the voters of the 12th District and beyond. Not only did he begin to criticize our mission last year, he crossed the line when he prematurely accused U.S. Marines by saying they “killed innocent Iraqi civilians in cold blood.” He made that statement before a single marine had been charged, and before a single court martial had been convened. Because of his comments, one of the Marines in the incident has even brought defamation charges against Mr. Murtha. While I won’t comment about that, I do feel that Mr. Murtha’s rush to judgment has damaged the morale of our troops.
You’ve mentioned in the past that your family has been personally affected by the war. How has this affected your resolve in being victorious in our mission against global terrorism?
I realize that this war goes way beyond simple buzz words like Weapons of Mass Destruction. We are fighting radical Islamic fundamentalists who seek only to cripple the West and will stop at nothing. We need to have the resolve to stop this movement, in order to make sure that we are protected here in America. We must send a message that our form of government will not fall to their radical regime, and we cannot do that by cutting and running, which will only embolden the terrorists.
What advice would you give other politically conservative women who may be contemplating public office, but are concerned about balancing it with family life?
I thought long and hard about my decision to enter this race. I had never envisioned myself running for Congress. However, when Congressman Murtha began his attacks on the war and our troops in November of 2005, I began discussing the possibility of challenging Mr. Murtha for Congress. After sitting down and praying with my family and discussing the schedule and the fact that much of time would have to be spent in Washington, we decided as a family that this was the right decision. In fact, I was most concerned about my youngest daughter, Alexandra. In discussing the downfalls with her, she stopped me, touched me on the arm and said, “Mom, our country needs you more than I do, you should do this, I’ll be fine.” I know that the congressional schedule will be challenging, but my family will always be at the forefront of my decision making. That is the reason I am running, for my children. I would encourage more women to run for public office, because I believe that we have a unique ability to understand the balancing act involved with raising a family.
What is one fact you want all Pennsylvanians to know about Congressman Murtha?
I want people to know that Jack Murtha is not the man who we elected to serve us 32 years ago. He has clearly lost his way. He has not been truthful with the voters of the 12th District for years, and now seeks a higher position in his party. His views are more in line with San Francisco that with Southwestern Pennsylvania.
And what one fact should they know about you?
As a wife and mother of three children, I will represent the views of the 12th District in Congress, rather than representing Washington back home.