Hear that? That silence is the sound of my phone not ringing. It's been a familiar quiet since I first started trying to get some answers about Rep. Don Young's (R-AK) Coconut Road earmark last month.
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Someone, apparently acting on Youngâs behalf, managed to change the billâs language in the massive 2005 transportation bill after it had passed both houses of Congress, but before the President signed it into law. The change no doubt gratified real estate developer Daniel Aronoff, whoâd raised $40,000 for Young earlier that year in his push for $10 million to construct a highway interchange. Youngâs language change steered that cash away from the communityâs requested use and to Aronoffâs pet project.
So a few weeks ago, I decided to figure out how, in a very technical sense, a bill's language can change after it passed both houses of Congress. Surely there must be a process to keep bills awaiting the President's signature safe from tampering, or so I assumed.
But after being passed repeatedly from office to office, Iâm still none the wiser as to how Young might have changed the billâs language. Itâs become crystal clear, however, that those who should know donât have a ready answer -- and don't seem eager to find one.
I started with a call to the current House clerk in late August; I heard nothing. Then I tried the House clerk who was in place in 2005 when the rewording occurred. Jeff Trandahl, now the executive director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, was on a cruise two weeks ago. When he returned, his secretary called to let me know he is too busy to talk -- too busy indefinitely, that is. I pressed, asking if that means he is saying no comment. "No, he is just too busy with an upcoming fundraiser." (Classic Washington blow-off line!)