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A Family Comes to Rep. Young’s Defense

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In the last election cycle, 10 Chouest family members each wrote a check for the maximum $4,800 to Young’s campaign. The contributions were all recorded on the same day: Feb. 3, 2010.

The Chouests have also supported other Alaska Republicans including Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who has collected $40,000 from the family since 2000, and the Alaska Republican Party, which received $45,000 during that period.

The privately held business was started in 1960 as Edison Chouest Boat Rentals and has grown, according to its website, into “the most diverse and dynamic marine transportation operation in the world.”

“The company owns and operates a growing fleet of new generation offshore service vessels supporting a vast majority of the U.S. Gulf deepwater market, as well as a large independently owned fleet of research vessels,” the website states.

According to one report, Chouest has built ships able to navigate Alaskan waters for Royal Dutch Shell PLC, the parent company of Shell Oil Co. In 2009 a company subsidiary, Offshore Service Vessels, won a federal contract worth almost $3.6 million from the Navy’s Military Sealift Command for an East Coast surface support vessel, according to Bloomberg.

The company was also active in the Gulf of Mexico cleanup following the BP oil spill last year, at one point joining up with a venture led by actor Kevin Costner.

Gary Chouest, a minority owner of the New Orleans Hornets basketball team, had considered becoming a majority owner of the team last year but backed away.

Young opened his defense fund in 2008 in response to several legal battles.

In one case, federal officials were looking into his ties with Anchorage oil field services company VECO Corp. Company executives Bill Allen and Rick Smith had made illegal contributions to his campaign, which were used for the Congressman’s annual pig roast. Young’s campaign attempted to repay VECO for the pig roast, but the check was never cashed.

Authorities were also looking into an earmark sought by a developer for a highway interchange in Florida that was put in the highway bill when Young was chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in 2005. The developer held a $40,000 fundraiser for Young.

Last August, Young issued a press release stating that the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section “has concluded their investigation and declined prosecution of Congressman Young.”

Alex Knott contributed to this report.

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