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When developer Daniel Aronoff wanted an interchange built in Florida, Rep. Don Young (R-AK) came through -- after Aronoff arranged a $40,000 fundraiser for him. But Florida wasn't the only remote state where the Alaskan congressman proved popular in 2005. A massive transportation bill was making its way through Congress, and Young, as the chairman of the transportation committee, was in a powerful position.

In addition to Aronoff's $40,000 in Florida, Young raised tens of thousands of dollars in Wisconsin, Arkansas, and New Jersey during the spring and summer of 2005 from residents and special interests eager to curry favor with the man who would preside over a $280 billion authorization bill.

In fact, Young proved much more popular with those outside his state during that time than with Alaskans. Young raised only $37,862 from Alaskans for his campaign and political action committees in the first six months of 2005 -- that's compared to $90,000 from Floridians, $22,000 from Wisconsinites, $174,000 from Arkansans, and $30,000 from New Jerseyans.

Below is our rundown of Young's special tour of our great nation, and how the locals fared.

Florida First and foremost, of course, is Young's infamous $10 million Coconut Road earmark, one which Young inserted (changing the language after the bill passed Congress) against the wishes of local officials.

Following the typical Young-earmark pattern, a fundraiser arranged by part-time Naples resident and real estate developer Daniel Aronoff triggered the earmark, after netting $40,000 for Young's campaign.

The project is unpopular in the area and local authorities have asked for permission to use the money for what was outlined by the original earmark before it was changed.

Wisconsin In late May of 2005, businessman Dennis Troha, his family, and associates gave $22,000 to Young.

He had his reasons. Daniel Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has reported that Troha was angling to have truck hauling legislation included in the transportation bill that would benefit Troha's trucking conglomerate. Troha got what he wanted (thanks also to Reps. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Jim Oberstar (D-MN)), but has since been indicted. Earlier this summer, he pleaded guilty to making illegal contributions to Democrats and Republicans alike. He's yet to be sentenced and faces a maximum of two years in prison.

Bice reports that Troha is currently cooperating with federal prosecutors as they probe the trucking deal. Young says that he's never met Troha and didn't know the rule change would benefit him.

Around the same time the US attorney's office began looking into the contributions, Young retained Akin Gump for $25,000.

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We're slowing down for a repeat stop on our Alaska fundraising tour. The last time we dropped in on former Alaska Gov. Bill Sheffield's (D) house, he was hosting the annual Rep. Don Young (R-AK) pig roast. This time he's helping out Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK). Thanks to TPMm Reader LDR for sending us the invitation to "Ted's in Town" where guests are encouraged to contribute $250 to the senior senator's campaign fund. No word on the spread.

Last night, CNN took a look at Rep. Don Young's (R-AK) extra-Constitutional methods, airing a segment on Young's $10 million Coconut Road earmark.



Remember that someone, apparently at Young's behest, changed the language in the massive 2005 transportation bill after a vote in both the House and Senate.

Young's office has stayed quiet about the Constitutional issue at hand. Notably, he isn't even talking to CNN.

CNN did talk to a businessman, Joe Mazurkiewicz, who attended the Young fundraiser in 2005. That fundraiser, organized by Daniel Aronoff, netted Young $40,000 in contributions.

Mazurkiewicz told CNN there's nothing nefarious here -- it's just "really proper planning." That's at odds with the blunt description he gave to The New York Times in June:

'We were looking for a lot of money,'' said the consultant, Joe Mazurkiewicz. ''We evidently made a very good impression on Congressman Young, and thanks to a lot of great work from Congressman Young, we got $81 million to expand Interstate 75 and $10 million for the Coconut Road interchange.''


Blitzer wraps up the piece saying this can't possibly be the only example of an altered earmark in the 800-page highway bill. But according to our review, it certainly is 1 in 6, 371.

From the AP:

Florida's top police agency said Wednesday its investigation into former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley's lurid Internet communications with teenage boys has been hindered because neither Foley nor the House will let investigators examine his congressional computers.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says it hopes to conclude its investigation next week. Foley, a Florida Republican, resigned from Congress on Sept. 29 after being confronted with the computer messages he sent to male teenage pages who had worked on Capitol Hill.

"We have requested to review federally owned computers that Mr. Foley used during his time as a representative, but the U.S. House of Representatives ... cited case law restrictions that prohibited them from releasing those computers," said Heather Smith, an FDLE spokeswoman.


The AP notes the court decision early this month that the FBI had wrongfully seized Constitutionally protected legislative materials from Rep. William Jefferson's (D-LA) office, which strengthens the House's refusal to turn over the computer. Probably not precisely what the Founding Fathers had in mind.

Rep. Don Young (R-AK) has developed a bit of an M.O. (No, he hasn't threatened to bite anyone else like an Alaskan mink.)

In the last year, Young thrice doled out reimbursements for fundraisers in what appear to be last ditch efforts to redeem himself. Perhaps the lawyers he retained in March -- and has since paid at least $262,000 -- had something to do with the decisions:

-- In June, the congressman reimbursed the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa $2,602 for "lodging and reception" costs from a fundraiser in February 2005. The event, arranged by businessman Daniel Aronoff, raised $40,000 for Young and appears to be the impetus for the contentious $10 million Coconut Road earmark. The arrangement is now part of an FBI inquiry into shifty earmarks. The Anchorage Daily News noted the tardy payback last week.

(Young's campaign lists the Hyatt payment as a June 2007 expenditure, which is a bizarre way to handle a reimbursement for 2005. In any case, Young's chief of staff Mike Anderson told me definitively that Young has not visited Florida at all this year and there was no reception. Young's campaign contributions also confirm no fundraiser took place.)

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By the end of this year, the U.S. military will have delivered fewer than half of the blast-resistant vehicles it promised would go to Iraq. The explanation? The first delivery estimate didn't account for the time spent adding amenities like radios and armaments to the vehicles. Defense Secretary Gates has referred to these vehicles as the top priority for military acquisitions. (NY Times)

Silence is golden. It seems to be the case in the court martial of Steven Jordan, the only officer being charged in the Abu Ghraib scandal. That's because every witness for the prosecution seems to bolster the defense' case; none has any reason to believe Jordan played a part in the scandal. Yesterday, one of the judges gave this advice to a prosecution lawyer: "Don't speak." Taking the hint, the prosecution rested its case yesterday. (Washington Post, Associated Press)

Lobbying reforms are motivated in part by the industry habit of financing expensive trips for lawmakers. Thank goodness those rules don't apply to executive officials, who have been traveling on the dime of companies and trade associations overseen by their agencies. Some of the highlights include free trips to Geneva to attend conferences and an all-paid weekend in Vegas. (USA TODAY)

A new administration plan will require charities and non-profits that do work outside the country to provide detailed information on all key personnel, in order to ensure that these organizations are not aiding terrorists. The government also reserves the right to reject certain organizations based on its findings. To be clear, the source of the evaluations will remain secret, standards will not be published, and the government has final say on whether an organization can exist. Trust them. (Washington Post)

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Barbour Griffith & Rogers has long been a powerhouse GOP lobbying firm. Now, apparently, American politics are just too small-time. BGR, according to a report by IraqSlogger's Christina Davidson, is trying to influence Iraqi politics as well.

BGR, the firm started by Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, has been promoting Ayad Allawi, the one-time Iraqi interim prime minister who over the weekend published an op-ed in the Washington Post calling for the parliamentary overthrow of current PM Nouri al-Maliki. The piece amounted to a trial balloon for American support for a second Allawi-led government, promising non-sectarianism and stability. Allawi has decades-old ties to the CIA, making him a known quantity to U.S. officials during a time of extreme frustration with Maliki.

But frustration alone doesn't get governments to fall. That's where BGR comes in. On August 17, the firm purchased the domain name Allawi-For-Iraq.com (the site's not yet live). Following publication of the op-ed, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) called on the Iraqi parliament to hold a no-confidence vote on Maliki. BGR circulated Levin's comments around Washington -- and particularly to Congressional staffers -- using the e-mail address DrAyadAllawi@Allawi-for-Iraq.com.

Yet BGR hasn't registered any affiliation with the ex-premier:

Allawi's relationship with BGR apparently is relatively new, however, because official Justice Department and Senate lobbyist tracking records provide no indication of the BGR-Allawi relationship.

BGR's Web site, which identifies dozens of BGR clients by name, makes no mention of Allawi.


But the firm's ties with Allawi perhaps shouldn't be so surprising. Among BGR's executives is Ambassador Bob Blackwill, who in 2004 served as the White House's Iraq coordinator. In that role, Blackwill was an enthusiastic booster of Allawi, helping manage the process that led to Allawi's selection by the U.S. and the U.N. as interim prime minister in advance of the dissolution of the Coalition Provisional Authority. After the 2005 elections in Iraq, Blackwill wrote a laudatory op-ed in The Wall Street Journal praising Allawi's strategy for crushing the insurgency: "Mr. Allawi's message is simple: Join us in building the new Iraq and accept its benefits or, if you support the insurgency, get ready to die."

As it happened, the strategy didn't live up to its promises. The elections knocked Allawi out of power, as his tenure ended up alienating a large swath of the majority Shiite population. His attempts at enlisting American support to return to office -- a perennial rumor in Washington over the past two years -- have all fallen short. Evidently, though, Blackwill and BGR evidently think that the time is right to get the old gang back together.

After initially granting tepid support to the current Iraqi government during the current fracas, President Bush clarified yesterday in his speech to the VFW convention that he supports Maliki, whom he called "a good guy." We'll see how long that lasts.

You may have heard about New York Republican operative Roger Stone, who has been accused of placing an obscene, threatening phone call to Democratic Governor Eliot Spitzer's 83-year old father. Stone is not only denying he placed the call, but has gone one step further by accusing Spitzer operatives of illegally entering his home to hijack his phone, using audio samples of his voice from TV appearances so that they could fake the phone call in order to make him look bad.

As it turns out, the chairman of the state Senate Investigations Committee informed TPMmuckraker that he will not be investigating Stone's various allegations. "Any alleged phone call would be more appropriately investigated by a law enforcement office as a potential harassment charge," said Republican state Senator George Winner, who has been spearheading other probes against the governor. "But this committee has no jurisdiction, really, or interest in that."

So does Senator Winner think Stone's accusation might be true?

"I have no idea about that. Mr. Stone and I have no involvement with one another. He is not involved with any activities of the Senate Investigations Committee," said Winner, adding that he only ever met Stone once, at a luncheon that also hosted a lot of other Republicans.

Winner did, however, recommend that people check out SpoofCard.com, a Web site that allows someone to fake a Call ID number and even disguise their voice — a sight that is currently the target of investigations by a different state Senate committee and Democratic state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

While Winner seems to be allowing for the hypothetical possibility that a call can be faked, on the other hand he's not taking any role in investigating the accusation, and he's definitely saying it was a good idea for Joe Bruno to let Stone go. "If he made that call, it was an improper action on his part, and I'm glad that Senator Bruno has terminated his relationship with the campaign committee as a consultant," Winner said. "I don't know whether it's true or isn't true, but I'm glad his services are no longer being utilized by us, because it's something of a distraction."

"The whole thing is very bizarre. I can't understand what advantage it would for anybody to make the call, and I can't understand what advantage there would be to direct anyone to make the call," Winner said. "I mean, what advantage would anyone have to make a harassing phone call to an 83 year old man?"

With a heavy heart, Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell told a Texas newspaper last week that due to the public debate over revising the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Americans will die.

McConnell, who before the late July-early August FISA legislation enjoyed broad bipartisan respect, placed the predicted deaths of Americans at the doorstep of an open society. Thanks to widespread efforts to understand what the NSA's highly classified warrantless surveillance program is -- from journalists, from legal scholars, from national security experts, from elected officials -- the Bush administration was forced last month to reveal too much about how the program operates, in order to correct misunderstandings. And that means, McConnell said, "Americans are going to die."

...So that's, we've got a lot of territory to make up with people believing that we're doing things we're not doing.

Q: Even if it's perception, how do you deal with that? You have to do public relations, I assume.

A: Well, one of the things you do is you talk to reporters. And you give them the facts the best you can. Now part of this is a classified world. The fact we're doing it this way means that some Americans are going to die, because we do this mission unknown to the bad guys because they're using a process that we can exploit and the more we talk about it, the more they will go with an alternative means and when they go to an alternative means, remember what I said, a significant portion of what we do, this is not just threats against the United States, this is war in Afghanistan and Iraq.


Emphasis added.

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On July 29, 2005, after both houses of Congress had passed a massive transportation bill, someone changed the language of a $10 million authorization for Florida to read just how Rep. Don Young (R-AK) wanted it. Who? How? It's not clear, and Don Young's not talking. But we do know one thing for sure: it was a unique case.

The 800-page, $286.4 billion bill included $24.2 billion for 6,371 special earmarks, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Out of those 6,371 earmarks, only one underwent a substantive change after it passed Congress. How do we know? We checked. Our, rather, our tireless (and by now nearly blind) researchers Will Thomas and Tanvir Vahora checked. Every single one. Lawmakers tucked 6,371 projects into the bill, and sure, there were minor differences between the conference report that passed Congress and the bill that the President signed, such as an extra word here or there, different punctuation, etc. But the only earmark that underwent a substantive change was Young's pet Coconut Road project:



As Keith Ashdown of Taxpayers for Common Sense explained to us, Young had a motive for making the change. Local authorities had signaled that they didn't want to spend the money on the I-75 Coconut Road Interchange and would rather have it for a more general highway widening project. But Young's rainmaker, businessman Daniel Aronoff, wanted the interchange. And so Young made sure that the money was targeted to that project.

The question remains, of course, how this happened.

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