U.S. Rep. John P. Murtha, the decorated Marine veteran who has become a leader of the congressional fight against the Iraq war, is one of two Pennsylvania politicians included on a list of "the most corrupt members of Congress."

The nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) criticized Murtha for directing millions of dollars in government contracts to clients of a lobbying firm founded by a Murtha aide.

The same contractors have showered Murtha, chairman of the Defense Appropriations subcommittee, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions.

CREW also cited Murtha's threat to block funding requests of a fellow congressman who challenged a $23 million grant for the National Drug Intelligence Center, a government agency in Murtha's Western Pennsylvania district.

Murtha, 75, a Democrat, now serving his 18th term, did not respond to a request for comment.

The other Pennsylvania congressman included on CREW's "most corrupt" list is Rep. Timothy F. Murphy, a third-term Republican from the southwest corner of the state.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported last year that Murphy had repeatedly asked his congressional staff members to help his political campaigns.

Their tasks ranged from carrying campaign literature to sending Christmas cards to campaign contributors.

Murphy fired the only staff member who was identified by name in the newspaper report.

He claimed she had been dismissed for violating an office rule that required approval before any aides could talk with reporters.

Murphy, 55, did not return a call from the Daily News.

The U.S. Justice Department is reportedly investigating.

"It has become abundantly clear that many public officials believe that the rules don't apply to them," said CREW's executive director, Melanie Sloan.

"Congress persists in abdicating its constitutional responsibility to police itself, opting to ignore the ethical and legal transgressions of its members."

CREW describes itself as "a non-profit watchdog group, dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions."

Its list included four Democrats and 18 Republicans, not counting two more Senate Republicans on a "dishonorable mention" list.

They are Idaho's Larry Craig, who pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after being accused of soliciting sex in an airport men's room, and Louisiana's David Vitter, whose name showed up on the client list of a Washington escort service. *