Thursday, August 5, 2010

Obama Justice Department Lets Don Young off the Hook

Alaska's best investigative reporter, Richard Mauer, reports in the Anchorage Daily News this morning:

Rep. Don Young said Wednesday that federal authorities have decided against seeking his indictment and have dropped their long-running corruption investigation of him.

Young, a 77-year-old Republican who has represented Alaska in Congress since 1973, announced the end of the government's investigation in a terse, one-sentence statement from his Washington office that offered no details. He had been under scrutiny by the FBI and the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section since at least 2006.

Meredith Kenny, Young's press secretary, said Young's attorneys got the word from the Justice Department in a telephone call Wednesday. Young was in Alaska at the time, she said.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment. The agency rarely makes a public announcement when it drops a case, though it will sometimes alert crime victims and potential defendants of a no-prosecution decision.

Kenny said Young wouldn't comment until he's cleared to talk by his attorneys.

"I'm waiting for guidance from the legal team about what he can do and what he can say," Kenny said. "They were notified this morning and that is all we can say. This all happened in the last couple hours."

Young's lead attorney, John Dowd, declined to comment.

"There is nothing to talk about beyond the statement issued by the Congressman's office," Dowd said in an e-mail message.

Mauer's article reiterates some of the material known to have been investigated by the FBI and Justice Department over the years, probably since sometime in 2005. Although Young's office has stated he spent well over a million dollars on legal fees by the time of the 2008 election, to my knowledge, there have been no recent updates on total expenses accrued by Young in defense during these long investigations.

Young's August 24th GOP primary opponent, Sheldon Fisher, said Wednesday:

A decision that there is a lack of evidence to prosecute Mr. Young is not the same as being cleared of federal corruption. I call upon Mr. Young to release Department of Justice correspondence allegedly clearing him of federal corruption charges. Alaskans deserve to know whether he was cleared or whether the Department of Justice merely decided not to prosecute in light of the embarrassment resulting from prosecutorial misconduct in other trials involving Veco Corp.

Young has refused to speak about these issues in the past due to the pending investigations, but now it appears he is free to speak on such matters. It is time for Mr. Young to respond to questions from Alaskans, the media, and fellow Republicans regarding how legislation from his Transportation Committee was unconstitutionally altered after had been passed by both the House and Senate to insert the Coconut Road earmark.

And Young's probable opponent in the November election, Alaska state Rep. Harry Crawford, "called on him 'to disclose to all Alaskans the full extent of the charges under which he was being investigated.'"

As some readers here know, I've been writing about Don for some time. Here are links to my October 2006 articles on Don's troubles up to that time, written for Down With Tyranny!

Part One

Part Two

Richard Mauer's article mentions Young's 2005 House Omnibus Transportation bill earmark for questionable road works on Coconut Road in Florida, but doesn't mention the connections Young had with the sleaziest lobbyist in recent Washington DC history, Jack Abramoff:

CONTRIBUTIONS — YOUNG RECEIVED $20,000 FROM ABRAMOFF CLIENTS: Abramoff’s clients have contributed about $20,000 to Young’s Midnight Sun political action committee. [Anchorage Daily News, 2/19/05]

FAVORS — YOUNG SPONSORS BILL FAVORED BY ABRAMOFF CLIENTS: “In 1997, Young sponsored a bill to hold a vote in Puerto Rico on statehood for the U.S. territory. Abramoff was a lobbyist for a group called Future of Puerto Rico that wanted the same thing.” [Anchorage Daily News, 2/19/05; Roll Call, 1/25/06]

FAVORS — YOUNG SIGNED A LETTER PUSHED BY ABRAMOFF, COLLECTED CAMPAIGN CASH: “In 2002, Young and another congressman signed a letter requesting that the administration favor minority and disadvantaged bidders for the redevelopment of a historic Washington, D.C. post office. At the time Abramoff’s clients — The Mississippi Choctaw and California Aqua Caliente — “wanted the same rules applied to the project, and [Abramoff] was seeking congressional signatures on a letter to that effect.” Young’s Midnight Sun PAC received $7,000 from the tribes on Oct. 17, 2002, just five weeks after signing the letter. [Anchorage Daily News, 2/19/05; Roll Call, 1/25/06]

GIFTS — YOUNG FAILED TO REPORT USE OF ABRAMOFF SKYBOXES: “Young also used Abramoff’s skybox at the MCI Center in D.C. for two fundraisers, events he did not report to the Federal Election Commission until after the Abramoff scandal broke.” [Roll Call, 1/25/06]

MARIANA ISLANDS — YOUNG BLOCKED BILL, FAVOR TO ABRAMOFF CLIENTS: Following a trip to Mariana Islands in 2000, Young “blocked a bill sponsored by House Democrats that would have made the garment industry there comply with federal labor laws” — an action that was favored by the Abramoff-represented local government and garment industry. [Anchorage Daily News, 2/19/05]

MARSHALL ISLANDS — YOUNG LED CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION TO ISLANDS AT BEHEST OF ABRAMOFF: In 1999, Young led a congressional delegation to the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI). Abramoff’s firm claims that it was responsible for “organizing a visit by a congressional delegation led by Representative Don Young (R-AK) to the RMI … and coordinating the delegation’s activities with the RMI military.” Abramoff represented the local government of the Marshalls at the time of the trip.
[Anchorage Daily News, 2/19/05]

Time for Don Young to be retired!

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Celia Harrison said...

Perhaps Don Young knows too much and threatened to expose something or someone. They may have made a deal with him to drop the charges if he retires after this term in office. I suppose the DOJ could have dropped the charges to cover for malfeasance on their part as well. This decision is not on the up and up, that is one thing I do know.

Anonymous said...

The DOJ's case ended when Lu passed away.

She was the lynch pin of the whole Abramoff affair.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Anon@8:39. Tell us more. My observation was that Lu was a bit non compos mentis, and hardly the type who wold be a "lynch pin of the whole Abramoff affair."

Anonymous said...

The style of corruption that Abramoff et al practiced ALWAYS included spouses.

There are more than a few characters from the Abramoff play lurking around Alaska. Keep an eye out for them.

My suspicion is that the DOJ got Don to roll on the new power players, because the old ones are out of power and well, just old now. Not much sport in prosecuting octogenarians...

Besides, the point is to prevent further corruption with their efforts, not rehash ancient history that can't be changed.