|Don Young addressing Wasilla Tea Party Patriots - April 15, 2009 - image by Philip Munger|
Don Young and Jack Abramoff first crossed paths in 1997. Young had "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." The bill passed the House but died in the Senate.
Beginning in 1999, Young became involved with Abramoff in scams designed to bamboozle Americans into believing that products produced under slave labor-like conditions in the Mariana Islands were "Made in the USA." Young, as chairman of the House Resources Committee, had oversight responsibilities over working conditions in the Marianas and the Marshall Islands. In spite of this responsibility, Young neglected to raise questions regarding working conditions in either Island group while touring the Pacific Ocean territories on trips subsidized or arranged by Abramoff.
Young has never been confronted on his failure to take action on labor abuses in the Marianas at that time which included forced prostitution and abortion, harsh working conditions, a rapidly growing narcotics trade and illegal garnishment of employee wages. Throughout the period of Young's stewardship over the islands, working conditions worsened as sweatshops erected there replaced the American textile and clothing industry one shop at a time.
Chinese crime boss and sweatshop owner Tan Siu Lin was able to launder money through Abramoff to a number of GOP legislators and committees at the same time the US Interior Department was issuing reports to Young about horrendous working conditions and the growth of organized crime at Tan family-owned businesses in the Marianas.
On January 4, 1999, Abramoff was hired to represent the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Abramoff’s main mission was to stop legislation pending in Congress, which would have raised costs of clothing manufactured by the Tan family and other clothing manufacturing interests there.
On February 21, 1999, Young visited the Marshall Islands. As soon as he returned to Washington, DC, Young killed House Resolution 730, which called for the implementation of US labor laws in the Marshalls.
On February 2, 2000, Young called Abramoff’s assistant Jennifer Calvert to ask for use of Abramoff’s MCI skybox for two upcoming fundraisers. The request was granted. The fundraisers were held March 30 and July 24. Young failed to report use of the skyboxes, as required by Federal law, until early 2006-- after the Abramoff scandal broke and was splashed all over the national media.
Later in the summer of 2000, Abramoff’s lobbying firm, Preston, Gates and Ellis, held a pricey tribute for Don Young at the Republican National Convention.
In 2001, Abramoff moved to the firm of Greenburg Traurig. In a January 4, 2001 proposal to represent the government of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Abramoff wrote about his confidence in Don Young’s ability to quash legislation prejudicial to the Tan family business interests. But Abramoff also complained about Young's removal from the Chair of the House Resources Committee, saying, "The loss of Chairman Young’s authority cannot easily be measured or replaced." [He was replaced by someone equally corrupt and someone who was quick to pick up where Young left off: Dirty Dick Pombo.]
But Abramoff wasn't yet done with Young. We know of at least two more scams. On March 21, 2001, Abramoff staffer Tony Rudy met with Young's staff to "start gathering signatures on letter to chairman," an unclear reference to a Marianas official.
During the remainder of 2001, Young or his staff met or had discussions with Abramoff agents at least eleven times, May 25, 29 and 31; June 5, 8, 13 and 25 (twice); August 22; and December 13 and 21.
In the summer of 2002, Young's senior counsel, Duane Gibson, went to work for Abramoff. This is in itself highly interesting given the almost daily parade of GOP staffers and ex-staffers under fire, indictment or both.
In September 2002, Young sought to intervene with the General Services Administration on behalf of Abramoff, who at that time was seeking preferential treatment for a group of his Tribal clients who were bidding on a proposal to develop the Old Post Office Complex site in Washington, DC. Although Young merely wrote two letters to the GSA recommending the tribe's business consortium, he received a $7,000 contribution from two of the partners in the deal. Irregularities in this business deal have led to the indictments and convictions of David Savafian, GSA chief of Staff, Congressman Bob Ney of Ohio, and, of course, Ambramoff. [Just today the Sacramento Bee confirmed that Young House crony John Doolittle is also being investigated for the FBI for his role in the Abramoff corruption scandals. It is widely believed that after Doolittle has been indicted Young and Montana Senator Conrad Burns will be the next up for thorough investigations by the Feds.]
On November 21, 2005 Abramoff’s partner Michael Scanlon pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe a member of Congress and other public officials. January 3, 2006 Abramoff pled guilty to three felony counts, conspiracy, fraud, and tax evasion, involving charges stemming principally from his lobbying activities in Washington. He is purportedly continuing to cooperate with Federal investigators but in the world of Gonzales/Bush "Justice," Alice Fisher has led the investigative team. Fisher has been tied to fundraising for GOP crime boss Tom DeLay’s legal defense team.
In February 2006, the Anchorage Daily News published an editorial and a story that covered some of the Young-Abramoff links detailed above. Young responded on February 7, 2006 with a long letter to the editor of the News. Young claimed, quite falsely, "I have never had any personal or professional relationship with Abramoff." Young concluded, "I find the Daily News' editorial suggesting an unethical link between myself and Abramoff to be reprehensible. You need to get your opinions [sic] straight and quit attacking my integrity." The Anchorage Daily News followed up on February 19, 2006, with an article detailing some of the Young-Abramoff links.
And Abramoff-Young links keep popping up. Former Abramoff colleague, David Safavian, was convicted on June 20, 2006 of false statements and obstruction of justice involving his collusion with Abramoff while Safavian served as Chief of Staff of the Federal General Services Administration. Although Safavian has been pinned mostly for the well-known golf junket to Scotland, which has also brought down Congressman Bob Ney of Ohio, Don Young's name came up in another aspect of Safavian's trial, the aforementioned Old Post Office Complex area development scam. There is a possibility that more information about Young's involvement in this crooked deal will come out in Safavian's pre-sentence investigation report, which is due for completion soon.
Along with Safavian, Federal prosecutors have convicted former Chief of Staff to Rep. Bob Ney, Neil Volz, for his role in deals which cut quite close to Young's involvement in the Old Post Office Complex scam and his subsequent contributions from Abramoff's clients. The May 25, 2006 Cleveland Plain Dealer article on Safavian has Volz testifying regarding Young. "In his testimony, Volz, who worked with Abramoff (as did Young’s chief counsel, Duane Gibson) after leaving Congress, detailed how the lobbying team received assistance from several Republican lawmakers, including Reps. Ney, Shelley Moore Capitol (W.Va.), Don Young (Alaska) and Steven LaTourette (Ohio)."
Liz Ruskin, the reporter who wrote the Anchorage Daily News stories critical of Young, left the paper in mid-2006. As of October 9, 2006, the Daily News has found no replacement for Ruskin, who reported on Alaska's Congressional delegation. According to their publisher, Patrick Dougherty, they have nobody assigned to cover Young during one of the most important national elections since World War II.
More articles are coming out every week as more information on Abramoff's criminal network come to light. Today's Los Angeles Times carries a long feature by Peter Wallsten, titled "Displease a Lobbyist-- Get Fired." In the article Wallsten chronicles Abramoff's long reach by having Allan Stayman fired in 2001, with Ken Mehlman's help. Stayman was the chief State Department negotiator for agreements on working conditions in the CNMI while Young also had direct responsibility for those conditions.
Alaskans should hold our sole Representative in what will be a Democratically-controlled Congress far more accountable about his dealings with Abramoff through the years, and his failure to look after the welfare of the citizens and residents of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands when he was statutorily responsible for the welfare of those people.