Young Faces Bribery Accusation

Congressman’s Legal Fees Pile Up Amid Ongoing Probe

In preparation for his sentencing in an Alaska bribery scheme, former oil executive Bill Allen released a tantalizing tidbit about the long-running legal allegations swirling around Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska): Allen told the Justice Department in 2007 that he had provided Young with more than $100,000 worth of gifts that the Congressman never reported.

It was the first official mention of Young in connection with the Alaska corruption probe that has led to indictments against several public officials, including former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).

It has been no secret that Young is under investigation. Young’s campaign doled out more than $1.3 million in legal fees to various firms and attorneys in the 2007-08 cycle and has paid more than $92,000 in legal fees in the current cycle. In April 2008, he issued a statement saying, “I have worked fully with the Department of Justice by answering their questions and providing them with anything they have requested. Both the Department of Justice and my lawyers have asked that I not comment further on the investigation.—

In December, Young stepped down from his position as ranking member on Natural Resources Committee, acknowledging there was a “cloud that hangs over me— and saying he would step aside “while my name is cleared.— But he never disclosed the subject of the allegations.

Allen’s statement proves that as early as 2007, the Justice Department was aware of allegations that Young had accepted improper gifts.

Allen — who was a prime witness in the case against Stevens — has pleaded guilty to bribery charges and is scheduled to be sentenced this week. In preparation for his sentencing, his defense team released a 2007 summary of “stipulated facts— in which Allen confessed to “additional criminal activity.— In that agreement, Allen said that from 1993 to 2006, he and another VECO executive “authorized the use of VECO funds to pay for the annual expenses associated with a yearly fundraiser for United States Representative A.— Young was during that time and remains the only U.S. Representative from Alaska.

According to the document, each year of the annual event, the VECO executives “arranged for the purchase of catering expenses, liquor, equipment rentals and other associated costs for a fundraiser. ... These expenses were paid using VECO’s corporate funds, and amounted to approximately $10,00 to $15,000 each year. The total monies paid by VECO for these fundraisers thus totaled approximately $130,000 to $195,000.—

The document also alleges that in 2006, Allen paid about $1,000 for a set of golf clubs that were given as a gift to Young.

Young’s personal financial disclosure report for 2006 does not indicate that he received a gift that year, but his campaign reported in January 2007 that it had paid Allen $38,000 for fundraising expenses.

The Anchorage Daily News reported in spring 2008 that Allen never cashed the check, however, and Young’s campaign donated the funds to the U.S. Treasury.

Members of Congress are required to disclose gifts that they have received on their annual financial disclosure forms. Stevens was found guilty by a jury of having failed to report gifts from Allen and others, but his verdict was overturned because of the Justice Department’s repeated failure to turn over to Stevens’ lawyers evidence that could have been useful in his defense.

The VECO case is not the only legal question surrounding Young. Last year, the Senate voted to ask the Justice Department to investigate Young’s role in providing a $10 million earmark for a Florida transportation project that benefitted a contributor to Young’s campaigns.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said Friday that she could not confirm or deny whether the agency is reviewing the Coconut Road earmark. It remains unclear whether the Justice Department could even pursue such an inquiry, however, since the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause would prohibit executive branch investigators from probing the legislative process.

Young has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and no charges have been filed against him. But the investigations are clearly taking their toll.

His campaign and his political action committee have paid out just more than $1.4 million in legal fees since the beginning of 2007.

According to his most recent campaign finance report, Young paid more than $46,000 in September to the D.C.-based law firm Tobin, O’Connor, Ewing, & Richard, erasing a debt to the firm that he first reported in July.

Young has paid the majority of his legal bills to Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, doling out $1.05 million since 2007.

Young also established a legal defense fund in January 2008, recording nearly $90,000 in donations to date and issuing more than $78,000 in payments to Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in the same period.

In its most recent report to the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, commonly known as the ethics panel, that fund reported two contributions totaling $7,500 from the Nome, Alaska-based Bering Straits Native Corp. and the Anchorage-based Chugach Alaska Corp.

The Oct. 15 report also lists a $5,000 payment to Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in late September.

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