Blog hints at Abramoff, Young link
Abramoff delivers: The man who would stop Cape Wind here had free trips
Anchorage Daily News
WASHINGTON -- Back in 1999, Alaska Congressman Don Young led a congressional delegation to the Marshall Islands, a group of atolls in the South Pacific. At the time, a lobbyist named Jack Abramoff represented the local government of the Marshalls.
Now a political Web site (see links between Don Young and Jack Abramoff here) has run an article suggesting the trip Young led was all Abramoff's doing.
"And Abramoff delivered," the Web article, by Brooklyn-based writer Paul Kiel concludes on talkingpointsmemo.com.
Young's office says the article is wrong and that the trip was a normal part of his work then as chairman of the House Resources Committee, which has oversight over matters involving the Marshalls and other U.S.-affiliated islands.
These days, with Abramoff awaiting sentencing for bribery, reporters and political snoops are retracing his steps on Capitol Hill, looking for connections to this or that Congress member. Lawmakers on the spot insist they don't know Jack. Or don't know him well. Some rushed to dump his past campaign contributions. The White House is keeping a lid on its photos of Abramoff and the President.
Meanwhile, Kay Brown, Alaska communications director for the Democratic National Party, saw Kiel's blog on Young and alerted the media.
"Overall it appears there's a pattern of Don Young doing favors for Abramoff and his clients," she said.
According to the blog: A former Marshall Islands government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told TPMmuckraker.com that after Abramoff was hired, he told RMI officials: "You need Congress to come out to the Marshall Islands. Let me see what I can do about that." And Abramoff delivered. At least three Members of Congress and three non-voting delegates accompanied Young on the February 1999 trip...
Young's spokesman, Grant Thompson, said Abramoff didn't help plan the congressional delegation tour, or CODEL, as they're called.
"CODELs are planned and executed as official government travel. They are planned and executed in strict compliance with the law," Thompson wrote in an e-mail in response to the Daily News' questions.
He reiterated Young's previous assertion that he has had no personal or professional relationship with Abramoff. Further, he said, Young doesn't recall ever meeting the lobbyist.
Kiel's article is based in part on documents that emerged in a lawsuit. The Republic of the Marshall Islands balked at paying nearly $500,000 in lobbying fees. Abramoff's old firm, Preston Gates and Ellis, sued in 2001. To support its demands, the firm wrote that among the lobbying services it provided was "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."
Thompson suggested Abramoff might have misrepresented his work to his clients.
The Marshall Islands is a fourth strand drawn between Young and Abramoff, all of which Young says amount to nothing.
• 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. Young said it was the local representatives he worked with, not Abramoff.
• In 2000, after visiting the Northern Mariana Islands, Young blocked a bill that would have made the garment industry there comply with federal labor laws. Abramoff represented garment manufacturers and the local government of the islands, which did not want the federal laws applied. Again, Young said he worked with the governor of the islands, not Abramoff.
• 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. Abramoff wanted the same rules applied to the project, and was seeking congressional signatures on a letter to that effect. Young says it was House aides who submitted the letter to him.
Abramoff never gave political contributions to Young, but his clients gave the congressman about $20,000, mostly through his Midnight Sun political action committee. Young, in response to a newspaper editorial, called it "reprehensible" to accuse him of accepting contributions in return for his official work.
Kiel slipped this disturbing note into in his blog: Young, according to an unnamed former government official in the Marshalls, addressed the parliament wearing Bermuda shorts.
Don Young in Bermuda shorts? The congressman's office had no comment.
CLOSE TO THE ACTION
No longer in charge of the piggy bank: Jack Ferguson, a big-time lobbyist with close ties to Rep. Young, used to be treasurer of Young's leadership fund, the Midnight Sun Political Action Committee. But in these post-Abramoff days, it's frowned upon to have lobbyists so openly rounding up the checks for the people they lobby. On Feb. 10, the Midnight Sun PAC removed Ferguson as treasurer, and in his place named former Alaska first lady and beloved octogenarian Ermalee Hickel.
But Ferguson won't be too far from the action on Midnight Sun, a fund that took in $400,000 in the 2004 election cycle. Linda Harrigan will be the PAC's official records custodian, according to the form she filed with the Federal Election Commission. She listed as her address the address of the Jack Ferguson Associates office on Capitol Hill.
Harrigan is Ferguson's longtime office administrator, and according to the firm's Web site "assists with fund raising and event planning for members of Congress."
Read the Anchorage Daily News story here, and comment below.
Read today's Cape Cod Times story about Young's interference in Cape Cod here.
Read local reaction to Young's actions here, and comment below.