They say that earmarking is a rigged system, a system of organized bribery (the "favor factory" as Jack Abramoff called it). But rarely has there been such startling evidence
of a quid pro quo as Rep. Don Young's (R-AK) $10 million earmark for a highway interchange in Florida (the state farthest from Alaska). The earmark came only days after a real estate mogul raised $40,000 for Young at an event in Florida.
But it gets worse. It turns out that Young had to bend, if not break, Congressional rules to do it.
The Naples Daily News reports
that he probably changed key language in the bill after
it had been passed in the House and Senate. The language left zero ambiguity about where exactly all that cash was supposed to go:
The words "Coconut Road interchange" were not in the federal transportation bill approved by Congress in 2005.
Those words were attached to a $10 million earmark sometime after the House and Senate votes but before the president signed the bill into law.
Within that time, someone with access to the bill deleted the earmarkâs original language that would have given $10 million more for widening and improvements to Interstate 75 and attached the phrase "Coconut Rd. interchange I-75/Lee County," according to a study by a former federal official who lives on Sanibel Island.
The wording must have changed during a process called "bill enrollment" when grammatical and technical -- not substantive -- changes are allowed to be made. As Keith Ashdown of Taxpayers for Common Sense tells the paper, "Iâve seen little gimmicks and little tricks used to make sure somebodyâs friend or contributor is taken care of but this is by far one of the more underhanded, surreptitious examples Iâve seen â ever."
The Coconut Road project stands to benefit Daniel Aronoff, a wealthy part-time Naples resident who held a fund-raiser for Young right before the earmark mysteriously appeared. But since the news about the timing of the Coconut Road language broke, local officials in Southwest Florida have started discussing using the money on a bigger project to widen Interstate 75 -- which is what the language in the bill was before Young changed it.
Note: Thanks to TPMm Reader EB for the link.