Criminal pork?

posted at 10:30 am on April 17, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Porkbusting got a boost yesterday when the Senate took an unprecedented action against a member of the House. Rep. Don Young’s staff edited an earmark for a project no one wanted after Congress approved the legislation, and could face criminal prosecution for the offense:

The Senate moved yesterday toward asking the Justice Department for a criminal investigation of a $10 million legislative earmark whose provisions were mysteriously altered after Congress gave final approval to a huge 2005 highway funding bill.

In what may become the first formal request from Congress for a criminal inquiry into one of its own special projects, top Senate Democrats and Republicans have endorsed taking action in connection with the earmark that Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), former chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, inserted into the legislation.

“It’s very possible people ought to go to jail,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which oversees highway funding.

Young’s staff acknowledged yesterday that aides “corrected” the earmark just before it went to the White House for President Bush‘s signature, specifying that the money would go to a proposed highway interchange project on Interstate 75 near Naples, Fla. Young says the project was entirely worthy of an earmark and he welcomes any inquiry, a spokeswoman said.

“Congressman Young has always supported and welcomed an open earmark process. If Congress decides to take up the matter of this particular project, there will be no objection from Mr. Young,” said Meredith Kenny, his spokeswoman. Young also sponsored a $223 million measure to build the fabled “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska, a project that was killed in 2005 after it sparked widespread outrage.

Memo to Young: editing an earmark after its passage is the antithesis of “an open earmark process”. It’s a way to redirect funds essentially through fraud, bypassing any oversight in Congress. Without a line-item veto, the President cannot strike it from the bill, and Congress would have to pass specific legislation to strike it once the President signed the appropriation bill.

Young, who represents Alaska, says that this project in Florida is “entirely worthy”, but that depends on definition. Local officials didn’t want the project, and have tried three times to cancel it. Unfortunately, since the money comes from a Congressional earmark, they can’t apply the funds anywhere else. However, Young got $40,000 from developers who will benefit from the highway extension at a fundraiser hosted by these same interests. In terms of campaign donations, the fraudulent earmark has certainly proven “worthy”.

The change involved transforming the earmark from general highway projects in Florida to this specific development. It took months before Young would admit that he had changed the earmark after the passage of the bill, but he claims that it had nothing to do with the $40,000 he got from the Florida developers. Young says that he always intended on making the earmark specific to this project — but for some reason corrected it only after its passage into law.

Republicans should have dumped Young years ago. This exercise in legislative fraud shows why. A criminal investigation is appropriate, and the GOP had better find someone better to represent Alaskans in 2008.


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Public flogging at 6 in the town square.

moxie_neanderthal on April 17, 2008 at 10:40 AM

The sad part of this is that it would be cheaper for the taxpayers to just pay these ‘campaign donations’ out of the spending bills instead of paying for the unwanted projects.

Well, that’s one sad part, anyway.

James on April 17, 2008 at 10:40 AM

Orange jump suit. You can even put a big fat ‘R’ on the front and back for all I care. Ask him how he feels about ear marks after he gets out of the prison shower.

Limerick on April 17, 2008 at 10:41 AM

Absotively a heart felt AMEN to that one. This is way passed enough of this garbage.

Snooper on April 17, 2008 at 10:41 AM

and the GOP had better find someone better to represent Alaskans in 2008.

As well as dumping Ted Stevens. How about Stevens and Byrd both go, as well as Young and, say, Charlie Rangel?

The fewer of these lifetime politicians, the better.

rbj on April 17, 2008 at 10:42 AM

This is the bone I have to pick with the GOP, they never can seem to get around to cleaning up their own house. Feckless lawmakers are allowed to staty in office, and it ends up tarnishing the brand. Reagan, I think, would take the 11th commandment back were he to see the GOP of today.

Theworldisnotenough on April 17, 2008 at 10:45 AM

Orange jump suit. You can even put a big fat ‘R’ on the front and back for all I care. Ask him how he feels about ear marks after he gets out of the prison shower.

Limerick on April 17, 2008 at 10:41 AM

Prison shower remarks are utterly tasteless in any situation, but they are worse here. Ed has tried to educate us about the evil of prison rape.

thuja on April 17, 2008 at 10:50 AM

thuja on April 17, 2008 at 10:50 AM

Then I offer my apologies. Truly.

Limerick on April 17, 2008 at 10:52 AM

Let Young and William Jefferson share the same cell at Leavenworth. They can regale themselves with tales of fleecing the idiot voters of their respective parties.

scum

And once the Dickie Scruggs investigations get over, maybe they can drag a cot in for Trent Lott.

scum

funky chicken on April 17, 2008 at 10:55 AM

Well, Sharpe James got convicted yesterday, a reminder that this kind of BS among the political class is a local, state and federal problem.

The best solution is to retrench the role of government so that the various favor factories can’t do much. The less they can do, the less interesting lobbyists will find them.

We will always have bad guys on both sides of the aisle as long as they can make their way as Young appears to have. Sending Young to the showers will satisfy an urge for revenge, but I would let him go if we could roll back the reach of these clowns so they cannot do this kind of trash, period.

The alternative is Young ends up as somone’s bitch and the game continues, the clever players never getting caught. Not good enough.

Harry Schell on April 17, 2008 at 10:55 AM

Is this the correct congressman Young? Don Young from Alaska or Bill Young FL10 from St.Petersburg FL?

meci on April 17, 2008 at 10:58 AM

It’s a pattern … there just never seems to be any consequences for being a corrupt politician. The investigations go on and on and meanwhile, the public forgets all about it and re-elects them, enabling them to find another way to stuff their freezers with kickbacks or line their own pockets with pork. Look at all the things the Clintons got “investigated” for and what was their consequence?

scalleywag on April 17, 2008 at 11:09 AM

At least the R side makes a small attempt at getting rid of the problems when they get caught. The D side sweeps it all under the rug and promotes them.

Corsair on April 17, 2008 at 11:22 AM

Is this the correct congressman Young? Don Young from Alaska or Bill Young FL10 from St.Petersburg FL?

meci on April 17, 2008 at 10:58 AM

I think Alaska is correct.

Don’t even get me started on the corruption in Florida government. Seems it has started gushing from the woodwork when Charlie became gov. I can’t wait to get out of this state – it is disgusting.

My husband just flew to Tallahassee to testify in FL house on an issue and the HMO lobbiests had the FL senate put a hold on the issue. So he wasted his time, the hospital’s money… and they do this consistently to discourage any public discussion of the issues.

Two days ago it was discovered that the State of Florida gave a huge grant to the Neilson Company to build a new facility. Neilson took the TAX-PAYERS MONEY, built the facility and they just recently (within weeks) layed off a bunch of workers (Florida taxpayers) and are replacing them with cheaper workers from…. (drum roll) INDIA !

Love to know the connection between Neilson and one of our wonderful Florida Senators or congressmen. I’m sure there are many.

stenwin77 on April 17, 2008 at 11:24 AM

“It’s very possible people ought to go to jail,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer

Yeah, starting with Boxer (D-Moron).

Wait… You mean being an idiot isn’t a crime?? Dang….

irishspy on April 17, 2008 at 11:26 AM

It’s gonna be so hard to get Don Young out of Alaska. He’s been there so long, Repubs would have to fight really hard to get someone else nominated – which they probably wont do.

apollyonbob on April 17, 2008 at 11:49 AM

Yep, send him to jail.

After the tar and feathers.

Mr. Bingley on April 17, 2008 at 11:49 AM

Republicans should have dumped Young years ago. This exercise in legislative fraud shows why. A criminal investigation is appropriate, and the GOP had better find someone better to represent Alaskans in 2008.

Alaska’s Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell is running for Young’s seat, and Gov. Sarah Palin endorsed him immediately after he submitted his papers.

its vintage duh on April 17, 2008 at 11:59 AM

/Howard Dean talking to his staff…

“OK folks, our Presidential candidates are gettin smeared out there… any old Republican scandal we can bring up?”

Romeo13 on April 17, 2008 at 12:06 PM

Go get him.

It should be humorous. I’m betting some of his biggest defenders will be ‘bipartisan’ just so they don’t get wrapped up for doing the same thing.

Asher on April 17, 2008 at 12:18 PM

Mrs. Boxer should be a little more circumspect in her pronouncements on jail time. I will happily lock the cell door on Young and his corrupt GOP cohorts, on my way to locking the door on Boxer, Feinstein, Murtha, Pelosi, and the various other criminals with D next to their names.

Jaibones on April 17, 2008 at 12:33 PM

One wonders how he could even gain enough access to alter the text. There’s something more to this. I bet he isn’t the first.

unclesmrgol on April 17, 2008 at 1:06 PM

I bet he isn’t the first.

Of course. We know that most bills are passed with most of the people voting for them never having read the bill in the form it’s being passed. How would anyone know if it had been changed?

The Monster on April 17, 2008 at 1:16 PM

I would like to see some leadership from the GOP. This isn’t a personal sex scandal, this is a deliberate misuse of his position. McCain should be calling for his immediate resignation.

lowandslow on April 17, 2008 at 1:46 PM

Since we live in a representative Republic (fortunately NOT a democracy) we have only ourselves to blame when those we ‘hire’ to represent us turn around and start representing those with the most money (and their respective Political Party). While it is, indeed, the right of all Representatives to spend Government money (see the Commerce Clause) it is also the responsibility of the electorate to select that individual with the highest Morals and Respect for the people they represent and serve.

I hold to my perspective that the House of Barons (aka the House of Representatives) look at their Districts as a Fiefdom where the serfs are ignorant and malleable. Its time to decrease the size of each District and increase the number of Barons Representatives so they each become accountable to the electorate.

SeniorD on April 17, 2008 at 2:35 PM

Its time to decrease the size of each District and increase the number of Barons Representatives so they each become accountable to the electorate.

SeniorD on April 17, 2008 at 2:35 PM

A wonderful idea! It can keep my term limits dream warm at night.

shibumiglass on April 17, 2008 at 3:06 PM

Yep, this is what the GOP has become. It’s why I went to the effort of unregistering as a Republican here in FL after the primaries, and why the RNC won’t get a penny of my money again until the party shapes up.

RW Wacko on April 17, 2008 at 3:24 PM

unclesmrgol on April 17, 2008 at 1:06 PM

I don’t get it either. How can the President be given a bill to sign that does not match what passed both houses after the conference report? Who has access to alter bills after they’ve passed both houses of congress and before they go to the President? That sure sounds like a broken process.

Al in St. Lou on April 17, 2008 at 5:13 PM

How expensive is it for the congressional ethics committee to get started up again after decades of near slumber?
What businnss is this of Boxer? Let her tend her own senatorial garden.

snaggletoothie on April 17, 2008 at 6:29 PM