Young’s Scandals: From Abramoff To Zachares

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August 28, 2007 3:55 p.m.
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It’s hard to keep track of all of Rep. Don Young’s (R-AK) scandals. But we’re here to help. Here’s a snapshot of what we know about all the ways Young has managed to get into trouble.

Coconut Road
McClatchy reported last week that investigators have begun scrutinizing Young’s now famous $10 million earmark for a Florida interchange. Whether the earmark was a quid pro quo for a big time contributor is only half the story. Young also appears to have changed the bill’s language after it passed Congress in order to make sure that the money went where (or to who) he wished.

Dennis Troha
As we noted in our post on Young’s remarkable fundraising record in the run-up to the 2005 transportation bill, Wisconsin businessman Dennis Troha is reportedly cooperating with investigators regarding his contributions to Young and other lawmakers. Troha allegedly gave his support in exchange for a measure that was inserted into the bill.

Veco
The FBI is also scrutinizing Young’s dealings with Alaska oil services company Veco Corp. At issue is whether he accepted bribes in exchange for political favors over the course of his long friendship with former Veco CEO Bill Allen. In January, Young tried to make amends by returning $38,000 to Allen for the decade-worth of pig roast fundraisers the executive held in Young’s honor each year in Anchorage. From 1996 to 2006, when Allen played host to the pork gala, Veco and its employees gave Young at least $157,000. Young was chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for six of those years.It’s unclear what Young might have arranged for Veco in exchange. But Veco has certainly done well as a federal contractor. The company’s federal sector website touts having “successfully completed projects totaling over $25 billion,” since 1992. Investigators are reportedly investigating Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) role in helping Veco get a $170 million contract. But which contracts might Young’s help have proven instrumental? We’ll keep you posted.

Jack Abramoff
Young also touches another investigation. The sole Alaska congressman kept close ties with Jack Abramoff and was known to hold fundraisers in Abrmoff’s MCI skybox. Last year, Paul reported on a 1999 Abramoff-organized Congressional junket Young led to the Marshall Islands. At the time, Young was the chair of the House Resources Committee. The delegation, which included Reps. John Doolittle (R-CA), Ken Calvert (R-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), visited the Kwajalein Atoll missile test site and attended a meeting of the parliament, during which a resolution was introduced to rename the test site after Ronald Reagan. Thanks to Paul’s intrepid reporting, we hear Young allegedly addressed the assembly in Bermuda shorts. Young vehemently denies wearing the short pants which are still part of the Royal Navy uniform.

Mark Zachares, a native Alaskan and former senior aide on the House Transportation Committee — during Young’s tenure as chair — pleaded guilty in July to hawking political favors in exchange for perks (like $60,000 in cash and a trip to Scotland) and a future job from Abramoff. Though Zachares carried out Abramoff’s work under Young’s noise, no concrete evidence has surfaced showing that Young was directly involved. But, Young’s effort seven years ago to stop sweatshop reform in the Mariana Islands raises some suspicion. Zachares was a Mariana Islands official at the time and Abramoff was the islands’ lobbyist and paid $11 million to make sure Congress didn’t interfere with wages or immigration — the two areas under Zachares’ domain. Thanks to Young, the reforms were halted.

And Zachares wasn’t the only aide of Young’s to have a relationship with Abramoff. Young’s staffer Duane Gibson left to go work for Abramoff.

Last quarter the Young campaign committee dropped $262,000 on legal fees. That might make it sound like Young is worried, but publicly he’s kept his cool. When protesters taunted Young about the FBI’s Veco investigation, the Anchorage Daily News captured his response:

Young smiled and did a little dance, shaking his hips and pumping his arms. “They’ll never get the best of me,” he said at one point to a supporter who was making his way through the line.

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