A new media report that Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) is now a target of an expanding federal criminal investigation involving an Alaska oil company and state elected officials has once again put House Republicans in a difficult political position, as they continue to be dogged with corruption scandals eight months after they lost the majority in the midterm elections.
GOP Members and aides who spoke on condition of anonymity Wednesday said there are ongoing conversations about how to address the Young matter and whether to remove him from his committee assignments, including the ranking membership on the Natural Resources panel and the second-ranking perch on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
A spokeswoman for Young said she had not spoken to her boss, who underwent prostate surgery Tuesday in Washington, D.C., and remained hospitalized Wednesday. “He’s in the hospital and I can’t speculate on it,” said Meredith Kenny, when asked if Young was considering stepping down from his panel posts of his own accord while under scrutiny. “I would chalk that up to rumors.”
One knowledgeable source said Wednesday that Young was denied a seat on the Water Resources Development Act conference committee — whose members were named by the House on Wednesday — because of the investigation, but his committee assignments remain an open question and GOP leaders have dealt with similar matters on a case-by-case basis.
There is no House rule on the matter, and neither the Republican Conference nor the Democratic Caucus have internal rules to handle these situations because the circumstances vary widely in each individual circumstance.
For instance, Appropriations ranking member Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) has retained his seat despite an ongoing federal investigation, but GOP Reps. John Doolittle (Calif.) and Rick Renzi (Ariz.) both stepped down from their committees earlier this year when the FBI raided businesses tied to their family members in separate corruption investigations. Doolittle and Renzi chose to step aside, but they did so under pressure from Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), who could have forced a vote to remove them had they not done so first.
However, the GOP Steering Committee also voted to give Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) a seat on the Appropriations Committee this year even though the FBI had pulled his financial disclosure records after media reports questioned earmarks he has steered to property he owns in his district.
A spokesman for Boehner said he had not spoken to Young on Wednesday and declined to comment further, but the 18-term Alaskan was a topic of conversation at the weekly Republican Study Committee meeting.
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), chairman of the conservative group, removed staff from the room during the Young discussion, which largely was focused on a floor blowup he had last week with Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) after the New Jersey lawmaker offered an amendment to cut an earmark that benefits Alaska.
On the floor, Young made several negative remarks directed at Garrett and conservatives in general, who have made earmarks a key issue this year in the annual appropriations process. Hensarling and others condemned Young’s “ad hominem” attacks, but the famously irascible Alaskan has refused to apologize.