The House Ethics Committee is extending an investigation into possible violations by Rep. Don Young of Alaska. Today’s announcement was the first public confirmation that the ethics panel is probing into Young.
The Committee is notoriously secretive about investigations. Its statement today merely said it’s extending the period of time it’s taking to look into “matters,” and that the extension doesn’t mean a violation has necessarily occurred. It now has until January 11th to decide how to proceed.
Congressman Young’s office says the investigation centers around donations made to his legal defense fund early this year and whether they exceed the legal limit on contributions. Young’s spokesman Luke Miller says the Congressman has been “proactive” dealing with the allegations and that when the issue first came up over the summer, Young formally requested that the Ethics Committee look into it. Miller read from a prepared statement:
“Considering the hell Congressman Young has gone through over the past 5 years, he would not knowingly do anything that would violate House rules. Congressman Young will continue to work with the Ethics Committee as they resolve this matter and he is prepared to return any contribution that is deemed in excess of the limit.”
Young was the subject of federal investigations on a number of fronts in recent years over alleged campaign contributions from corrupt Veco executive Bill Allen and an earmark called Coconut Road that was mysteriously inserted into a transportation bill and benefited a wealthy Florida developer and donor. Young announced last year that the Justice Department had ended its investigations.
But the watch-group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, wants to know more about the investigations into Young and has sued the Justice Department for access to its records. Executive director Melanie Sloan says today’s internal Congressional investigation pales in comparison to past accusations. “In truth this is just not, to my mind, anywhere near the biggest ethics issue Don Young has faced,” Sloan said. “It’s pretty minor in the scheme of things. He was subject of four criminal investigations, the Ethics Committee let all of that go by without nary a word. It tells me the Ethics Committee isn’t interested in the big issues, the big problems.”
The House Ethics Committee would not comment on its investigation into Rep. Young beyond the brief statement it released today.