Rep. Don Young, currently the fourth longest-serving House member, violated rules when he used campaign funds for personal purposes and accepted improper gifts, a House Ethics Committee report said in a letter of reproval Friday.
The report , which the Ethics Committee unanimously approved, comes after a years-long investigation by the Committee and the Department of Justice into allegations that Young, over the course of 12 years, improperly accepted free trips, lodging, meals, even a pair of $434 Le Chameau hunting boots.
"Representative Young also violated House Rules and other laws, rules, and standards of conduct by failing to report certain gifts on his Financial Disclosure Statements," the report said. The Committee said Young should repay the value of those improper gifts and trips — $59,063.74 — to the donors and his campaign.
"The Committee also finds that Representative Young should be reproved for his conduct with respect to his improper personal use of campaign funds, his acceptance of improper gifts, and his failure to report certain gifts on his Financial Disclosure Statements," the report continued.
The report notes that "given the lengthy chronology of this matter" — instances of Young accepting improper gifts date back to December 2001 — an Investigative Subcommittee, which looked into the allegations for more than 14 months, could not determine if Young "purposefully or corruptly" accepted any gifts. From an earlier Roll Call:
Federal investigators began examining Young’s finances after he helped direct $10 million to a Florida road project that benefited one of his campaign donors. Though Young was not ultimately charged in the case, the F.B.I. released documents that showed the Alaska lawmaker had used re-election funds for hunting trips, charter flights and other personal expenses, according to a New York Times report.The Ethics Committee began investigating the matter in the 111th Congress.
"After approximately two years of delay caused in part by this Committee, as well as disputes with both Representative Young and DOJ regarding discovery of information in their possession, the Committee chose to move forward with its own investigation," the report said.
While the report notes that they couldn't determine Young's intent with the gifts, it says Young's "state of mind at the time he obtained the gifts did not impact whether he must repay the improper gifts and misused campaign funds."
"He must," the report said.
The sum that Young owes breaks down to $30,936.33 to his campaign and $28,127.41 to 10 individuals. Young racked up the bill between December 2001 and February 2013, well after he knew he was being investigated. The list of improper gifts includes: more than $30,000 in air travel costs, more than $12,000 for hunting expenses, and more than $6,000 for lodging and meals.
Beyond paying back his campaign and donors, the letter of reproval is meant as a public shaming of Young. There are no criminal fines or major repercussions for Young, despite the Ethics Committee finding a number of serious violations, but the letter of reproval is seen as a major rebuke by the House Ethics Committee.