House Ethics panel: Young Misused Campaign Funds, Accepted Improper Gifts

U.S. House Ethics Committee today issued a letter of reproval to Alaska Congressman Don Young for accepting gifts and expenses related to  multiple hunting trips in violation of the House Gift Rule. The panel says he should repay $28,000 to gift-givers and $31,000 to his re-election campaign. The committee found he accepted 15 such trips between 2001 and 2013.  For seven of those trips, only some of the expenses, such as air travel provided by friends, were deemed improper. But all expenses for eight of the trips were found to be gifts in violation of the rule or improper use of campaign funds for personal use. The committee also noted that Young listed none of the gifts or trips on the personal financial disclosure documents members of Congress are required to file each year.

The action originated with a wide-ranging Department of Justice investigation that began years ago. In August 2010, the Justice Department told Young it would not bring any charges against him. But that same month, DOJ sent information about his gifts and hunting trips to the Ethics Committee. The trips the Justice Department identified were trips taken by Young, his family members and staff to hunting lodges and all occurred between 2003 and 2007. Investigators for the committee found improperly funded trips dating back to 2001 and as recently as last year.

The Ethics Subcommittee that investigated Young did not conclude Young corruptly or purposefully accepted the gifts, nor that he made false statements to federal officials. The Committee did not recommend the harsher penalty of censure by the full House of Representatives.

Young’s spokesman said the congressman would not talk about the report today. He issued the following statement:

I accept the House Committee on Ethics’ report and regret the oversights it has identified.  There were a number of instances where I failed to exercise due care in complying with the House’s Code of Conduct and for that I apologize.  As the Committee indicates in its report, I never “made any knowingly false statements to government officials” nor did I act “corruptly or in bad faith.”

I have made each of the payments recommended by the Committee and have taken significant steps since 2007 to strengthen my office’s polices for compliance with the Code of Conduct to ensure that these types of oversights do not happen again.  It is through these actions that I show my colleagues and Alaskans that I fully respect the House Rules and will continue to comply with them now and in the future.

I am pleased that today’s decision represents the conclusion of an extended inquiry by both the Department of Justice and the House Committee on Ethics and I will continue to faithfully serve the people of Alaska.

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Liz Ruskin covers Alaska’s congressional delegation, federal agency decisions that shape life in the 49th state, money in politics and elections. She has deep roots in Alaska and this is her third stint in Washington, a city she has grown to love.

She was born in Anchorage and is a West High graduate. She studied political science at the University of Washington and has an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri in Columbia. During graduate school, she moved to Washington to intern as a D.C. correspondent. But for her first real journalism job, she moved back to Alaska to work at the Homer News. She was there for three years before taking a job at the Anchorage Daily News. Over the course of nine years in Anchorage, she covered City Hall, courts, state politics, and Native and rural affairs.

Then, in April 2001, she moved back to Washington to work in McClatchy Newspaper’s D.C. bureau as a correspondent for the Anchorage paper. She stayed in the position for five years.

She took a year off for a journalism fellowship at the University of Colorado in Boulder, then freelanced for several years from the U.K. and Japan, in print and radio.

When a vacancy occurred in APRN’s one-person Washington bureau, she jumped at the opportunity. Liz has been APRN’s Washington, D.C. correspondent since October 2013.

lruskin (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  | About Liz