Refusing to release information on the "Coconut Road Corruption Investigation" that targeted Rep. Don Young will cost the Department of Justice more than $86,000, a U.S. District Court judge for the District of Columbia has ruled.
The order stems from a long-running corruption probe into House's longest-serving Republican, who has earned a reputation for his brash behavior on Capitol Hill and back home in Alaska. In 2008, Congress directed DOJ to examine Young's role in steering $10 million into a Florida transportation project. It concluded in 2010 with no charges against Young, but Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington wanted more details on what DOJ uncovered. CREW filed a Freedom of Information lawsuit in 2011, after DOJ declined to provide what they sought, citing's Young's right to privacy. The nonprofit asked the court to determine whether public interest in disclosure outweighed the congressman's interest in keeping the findings secret. Judge Gladys Kessler ruled in 2012 that Young had "diminished" his interest in privacy by making statements to the press and on the House floor about the investigation and accusations, and concluded the balance tipped in favor of disclosure. That resulted in the release of some documents.
Kessler concluded that DOJ's conduct in withholding documents from CREW was "unreasonable." On Monday, she ordered the federal government to repay CREW's $86,076.20 in legal fees within 60 days.
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