Talking Points Memo's Muckraker has a stunning post from Laura McGann and Paul Kiel about U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) and his cross-country money fundraising tour. In 2005, a huge transportation bill was being assembled in Congress, and Young, as chair of the House Transportation Committee, used the opportunity to travel the country reaping in campaign cash. Developers and other business executives from Florida to Wisconsin turned the famous line from the film "Field of Dreams" on its head, "If he comes (and we give him loads of cash), they will build it."A $40,000 fundraiser in Florida resulted in funding for an interchange. A series of contributions totaling $22,000 from a Wisconsin trucking company executive and his associates resulting in the chairman inserting favorable trucking legislation in the bill. Arkansans contributed $66,000 to Young and were rewarded with a $72 million extension of an interstate. Also in Arkansas, Wal-Mart's PAC and execs gave Young $14,000 and suddenly a $35 million widening of the street leading to Wal-Mart's headquarters in Bentonville found its way into the bill. And the New Jersey Alliance for Action held a luncheon for Young, where he collected $29,500 in contributions. The Garden State was rewarded with 179 earmarks totaling $550 million, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense. Now that's a lot of action!
I don't know what databases TPM used to explore these connections beyond those of earmarks at Taxpayers for Common Sense, but I'd wager they were looking at numerous ones at the Center for Responsive Politics too. There's gold in those numbers.
Obviously, this type of legal bribery is not unique to Young. But it is shocking, nonetheless, when it's exposed in all of its gore. The temptations are great to misuse the power that resides with committee chairs. This is why openness and transparency is key to keeping Congressional leaders honest. We hope the new earmark disclosure requirements help. Congress can and should take other important steps. Both parties, on taking control of Congress, pledged to end corruption. But history has shown the temptations too enticing to resist. Transparency is the means for Congress to protect itself from...Well, itself.Continue reading
FBI agents in Alaska, armed with search warrants, descended without warning Thursday at the offices of several Alaskan lawmakers in what appears to be a major investigation involving VECO, the oil field service company that has long been one the most generous political contributors to Alaska politicians.
Among the offices searched were that of State Senate President Ben Stevens, the son of US Senator Ted Stevens, and an important political ally of VECO in the state legislature. According to the Anchorage Daily News, Stevens has closer connections to the company than simply receiving campaign contributions:Continue reading
The three congressmen that Neil Volz said he and Jack Abramoff worked with issued their expected denials. The congressmen, Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Steve LaTourette (R-OH), and Don Young (R-AK), issued statements through spokesmen. Only LaTourette and Capito responded (Young's spokesman said that the congressman was unaware of Volz's testimony):
Deborah Setliff, communications director for LaTourette, said, "The congressman is the former chairman of the Transportation Committee's Public Buildings Subcommittee. About four years ago, Chairman LaTourette and Chairman Young signed a letter to the GSA encouraging hub-zone business participation in the redevelopment of the Old Post Office building in Washington, D.C. Hub-zone businesses, a type of disadvantaged small business, are routinely included in large GSA projects. The congressman supported small, disadvantaged businesses then and still does today, and the policy is good regardless of who is pushing it. He has never supported turning the Old Post Office building into a hotel and supports legislation making it a women's history museum." "Representative Capito had absolutely no knowledge of the phone call that purportedly took place between her former chief of staff and Mr. Volz, " said her spokesman Jordan Stoick. "She was not aware of any contact with GSA, nor has she ever consented to her name being used in any way to assist in obtaining information from GSA on this matter."Continue reading
Neil Volz brought out his pointer finger today as he testified at the tiral of David Safavian. According to the Associated Press, Volz stated that he "received assistance from several Republican congressmen including, Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, and Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio." Denials of wrong doing by spokesmen for the four congressmen are forthcoming. "The congressman did not have a legislative relationship with that lobbyist!"Continue reading
Rep. Don Young (R-AK) is furious that his earmarked “bridge to nowhere” became the object of derision and a symbol of congressional largesse and pork barrel spending, so he is asking the Alaska state government to pay for the two bridges to Ketchikan-Gravina Island and Knik. According to the Anchorage Daily News, Young blames John McCain (R-AZ) for the defeat of his earmarks and states his opposition to a McCain presidential campaign, “I may support Hillary Clinton if he gets the nomination.” Young also said “he has been unfairly pulled into the orbit of the Jack Abramoff scandal,” and denied that he addressed the Marshall Islands Legislature in Bermuda shorts on a trip organized by Abramoff as Islands legislators have claimed in recent reports.Continue reading