Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 7, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

HOW TO MAKE A GOOD IMPRESSION....Don Young is a congressman from Alaska, not Lee County, Florida. So why was he so intent on approving a $10 million earmark to extend Coconut Road in Bonita Springs eastward several miles so it could join up to I75? An extension that neither the local congressman nor Lee County officials had any interest in? Funny you should ask:

The Coconut Road money is a boon, however, to Daniel J. Aronoff, a real estate developer who helped raise $40,000 for Mr. Young at the nearby Hyatt Coconut Point hotel days before he introduced the measure.

....A consultant who helped push for the project spelled out why its supporters held the fund-raiser. "We were looking for a lot of money," said the consultant, Joe Mazurkiewicz. "We evidently made a very good impression on Congressman Young, and thanks to a lot of great work from Congressman Young, we got $81 million to expand Interstate 75 and $10 million for the Coconut Road interchange."

....When he was approached near the House floor by a reporter, Mr. Young responded with an obscene gesture.

Yes, $40,000 probably counts as a "very good impression." On the bright side, at least they didn't deliver it in bricks of hundred dollar bills wrapped in aluminum foil.

Kevin Drum 1:47 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (43)

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Comments

Why is it legal if the money goes into a a politician's PAC but illegal if it goes into a politician's freezer?

Posted by: Old Hat on June 7, 2007 at 1:55 AM | PERMALINK

"Why is it legal if the money goes into a a politician's PAC but illegal if it goes into a politician's freezer?"
Old Hat

Well, it just goes to show that republicans are far better at corruption than democrats!
Always have been, always will be.
It's their job!

Posted by: jay boilswater on June 7, 2007 at 2:33 AM | PERMALINK
On the bright side, at least they didn't deliver it in bricks of hundred dollar bills wrapped in aluminum foil.

Depending upon where he is in Alaska, he may not need a freezer to keep his cash cache cold...

Posted by: idlemind on June 7, 2007 at 3:43 AM | PERMALINK

New Dem slogan: "See, the GOP is just as corrupt as we are! But, we're charmingly incompetent when doing it, so we've got that going."

Meta: will this post kick off a series of ruminations in which Drum follows the money on what he supports?

Posted by: TLB on June 7, 2007 at 4:33 AM | PERMALINK

you didn't mention how much money the real estate guys stood to make by raising the land value, nor how many pieces of that land don young ended up holding. maybe he was taking lessons from hastert?

Posted by: supersaurus on June 7, 2007 at 5:39 AM | PERMALINK

What's the advantage of aluminium foil over a Ziploc bag? Is this some cultural reference (Tarantino, Woody Allen, Bogart ..) I've escaped through being an ignorant foreigner who doesn't go out enough?

Posted by: James Wimberley on June 7, 2007 at 5:51 AM | PERMALINK

"Orwell," unable to defend the GOP's corruption, tries a scattershot bit of trolling, includingL That's why Libby goes to jail for 30 months and Berger gets nothing.

False equivalence, moron. It's sadly amusing how you Bush Cultists excuse Libby's outing of a covert CIA agent, perjury and obstruction of justice by pointing to Berger.

Meanwhile, it's curious why on an allegedly liberal blog Kevin didn't see fit to mention that the apparently corrupt Don Young is a Republican. Or did Kevin assume that because Young is corrupt, people would just understand he's GOP?

Posted by: Gregory on June 7, 2007 at 7:39 AM | PERMALINK

What's the advantage of aluminium foil over a Ziploc bag?

Foil has the added charm of being opaque. You may have to pass judgements based upon the shape, density, and sounds the object makes when you shake it. It breathes better (which can be a bad thing in todays frost free freezers). For me it brings back memories of the freezer in my great aunt's garage, and like her I'd suggest writing a date and description on the outside of the foil with permanent marker.

Posted by: rewolfrats on June 7, 2007 at 8:22 AM | PERMALINK

Meanwhile, it's curious why on an allegedly liberal blog Kevin didn't see fit to mention that the apparently corrupt Don Young is a Republican. Or did Kevin assume that because Young is corrupt, people would just understand he's GOP?

it is rather telling.

Posted by: spacebaby on June 7, 2007 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

Gregory,

Don Young has been the Alaska representative for 34 years. He's the one that looks like a smiling Ted Kazinsky. If you don't remember him, just remember that he's from Alaska. They haven't sent a democrat to congress since Mike Gravel.

Posted by: rewolfrats on June 7, 2007 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

For Christ's sake! First you attack the man for wanting to build a road to nowhere. Now you attack him for wanting to connect five golf clubs to an interstate. Which is it?

Posted by: B on June 7, 2007 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, aluminium Foil - Aha

Thought for a minute that the Mighty Don Young had been in Florida trying to acquire aluminium tubes in order to protect Alaska from enviros.

But, didn't he recently go on a fact finding tour of Niger? Nah, couldn't be.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on June 7, 2007 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

Meta: will this post kick off a series of ruminations in which Drum follows the money on what he supports?

I was going to make a snarky reply to this, but there's an interesting underlying question: from a "clean government" standpoint, is there a difference between a) Young inserting an earmark to directly benefit a for-profit developer, and b) some Dem inserting a provision to protect some bit of wilderness at the whim of the Sierra Club, assuming that both had recently received PAC money to, um, "motivate" them?

I don't like either scenario (although I love wilderness and probably agree with the Sierra Club more often than not), but I'd argue that the former is much worse because it's in essence transferring tax money to the developer. In other words, it's a direct kickback, whereas the Sierra Club gets warm fuzzies but nothing else. Compare also Denny Hastert's sleazy contribution to the transportation bill, which in that case would have lined the pockets of him and his cronies. I think non-profit interest groups on either side can dangerously skew our government's priorities, but they aren't sucking it dry.

That said, I still think the worst abuse of government power and tax revenues is through earmarks that don't necessarily favor a single party but are generally intended to promote local economic interests, e.g. a $230 million bridge that will make jobs for Alaskan construction workers, or subsidies for a crop grown in the congressman's home district, or federal funding for a Museum of Whatever-the fuck the district is famous for. It's redistribution of wealth on a piecemeal basis. This kind of shit is what keeps driving me slowly towards libertarianism and federalism, especially since I live in California which gets 76 cents back per dollar of tax revenue. (Full disclosure: I'm paid by the NIH and also use DOE facilities, so there's a limit to my outrage.)

By the way, I thought Kevin made it pretty clear earlier that Jefferson is a scumbag. Both he and Young (and Hastert) probably belong in jail.

Posted by: Nat Echols on June 7, 2007 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

Seeing the fine example of our Democracy in Action brings a tear to my eyes.

Posted by: tomeck on June 7, 2007 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

If you don't remember him, just remember that he's from Alaska. They haven't sent a democrat to congress since Mike Gravel.

True, that's another data point that would suggest he's a Republican if you didn't know offhand.

But providing the appropriate context takes the addition of one freakin' word: Don Young is a Republican congressman from Alaska. But his affiliation is mentioned nowhere in the post! This omission tends to lend support to the GOP's bogus frame that corruption is simply endemic to Congress in general, rather than the Democrats' more accurate point that the Republicans have not necessarily a monopoly on corruption but certainly a much more pervasive problem.

Again, that's odd framing for an ostensibly liberal blog.

Posted by: Gregory on June 7, 2007 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

By the way, also from the article:

And a Republican commissioner of Lee County, Ray Judah, is campaigning against the interchange, calling it an example of Congressional corruption that is “a cancer on the federal government.”

“It would appear that Don Young was doing a favor for a major contributor,” Mr. Judah said.

Nice to see some bipartisan outrage. We need more Republicans like that. (And although he's pretty out there on most issues, Tom Coburn seems committed to fighting earmark abuse.)

Posted by: Nat Echols on June 7, 2007 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

Sandy Berger didn't "get nothing". Berger was punished more than the recommended sentence.

And, note, Berger admitted to what he'd done, and there haven't been Democratic bigwigs moaning in public over the injustice either.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on June 7, 2007 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

Very little detail offered about the 'obscene gesture'. Did he grab his crotch? Grind his hips? Slap his ass? It may have all been very innocent, depending on what his iPOD was blasting.

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on June 7, 2007 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

"Meanwhile, it's curious why on an allegedly liberal blog Kevin didn't see fit to mention that the apparently corrupt Don Young is a Republican. Or did Kevin assume that because Young is corrupt, people would just understand he's GOP?"

Actually, when I first read the blog entry I noticed Kevin Drum didn't mention Young's party affiliation as well. My first thought was that he must have been a Dem, sorta like how the MSM typically omits race information for certain types of interracial crimes.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on June 7, 2007 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

JW,

Perhaps the cultural reference you missed was Kevin's link a couple days ago:

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2007_06/011428.php

Posted by: B on June 7, 2007 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

OT but noteworthy

Bill Richardson: steady hand, nerves of steel, tin ear.

"The New Mexico governor says hunting is just a hobby and he's still a novice since he took it up in earnest only about four years ago, when he became governor of New Mexico. Richardson has bagged traditional game - such as elk and turkey - and stalked the exotic. He shot an oryx, a long-horned antelope native to Africa, during a guided outing in 2005 on a New Mexico ranch owned by media mogul Ted Turner."

Yes, the reason Richardson hasn't broken out of the pack yet is the widely-held opinion among Democratic primary voters that he was 'soft on oryx'. Now at last the truth has come out: Richardson is not just 'tough on oryx', he shoots them as a hobby. Moreover, like any other Joe-6-Pack with a rifle, his favorite place to track them down and kill them is Ted Turner's ranch.

Bill Richardson: Stalker of the Exotic!

Ay carumba...

(quote from TPM Morning Roundup)

Posted by: lampwick on June 7, 2007 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

Didn't Carl Hiaasen write a novel about this sort of thing?

Posted by: Matt on June 7, 2007 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

idlemind: "Depending upon where he is in Alaska, he may not need a freezer to keep his cash cache cold..."

Orwell: "This guy didn't have to put his pay off money in the freezer. He lives in Alaska, he could just keep it out back in the shed."

Don Young lives in Washington D.C. He only comes to Alaska when he's hosting CoDels or lobbyists on fishing trips. He ostensibly lives in Fort Yukon, where he was briefly mayor, but he can't even remember the zip code of his home address.

For the record, Interior Alaska where Fort Yukon is located has a continental climate; 90-degree days in summertime are not unusual.

Posted by: Grumpy on June 7, 2007 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

Nat Echols on June 7, 2007 at 9:25 AM:

..is there a difference between a) Young inserting an earmark to directly benefit a for-profit developer, and b) some Dem inserting a provision to protect some bit of wilderness at the whim of the Sierra Club..

Well, the Sierra Club doesn't quadruple the value of the land they own by getting a connector to I-75...There is no direct financial benefit to the Sierra Club for getting a piece of legislation it favors enacted.

Gregory on June 7, 2007 at 9:27 AM:

..that's odd framing for an ostensibly liberal blog.

Since when is right and wrong a matter of Right and Left (or Dem and Repub)?

As for the Aronoff family/Langdon Companies: They build mobile homes, too. I wonder how much of the over two billion dollars spent on manufactured housing went to the Aronoffs...homes which are now being auctioned off by FEMA for a couple of thousand dollars...

Posted by: grape_crush on June 7, 2007 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, the reason Richardson hasn't broken out of the pack yet is the widely-held opinion among Democratic primary voters that he was 'soft on oryx'. Now at last the truth has come out: Richardson is not just 'tough on oryx', he shoots them as a hobby.

He should shoot at windsurfers (with paintballs!...not trying to kill anyone here...although you'll shoot your eye out). Very elusive prey.

Posted by: Wild Bill Richcock on June 7, 2007 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, there is an element of Hiassen's "Sick Puppy" in that sick puppy of DC and Ft Yukon.

There it was to be a mall paved over an island.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on June 7, 2007 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

Old Hat started the thread off with a query. Yes, it is strange that keeping the largesse of one's six PACs in the freezer is illegal.

Posted by: stupid git on June 7, 2007 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

Only $40,000?... That there's a cheap Congresscritter.

Posted by: luci on June 7, 2007 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

"Republicans are good stewards of Taxpayer Money" - Bwa Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha.

Posted by: Robert on June 7, 2007 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

The truly sad thing is that so few in the congressman's district give a damn.

Posted by: oldhat on June 7, 2007 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks, thirdpaul.

Somebody should order a load of garbage dumped onto Young's car.

Posted by: Matt on June 7, 2007 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Trolls are funny,not like clown funny more like,Someone fell off a bike funny.Odd they bring up Sandy Berger but not a mention of Delay,Foley,Duke,Libby,Cheney,Armitage,Jeez so many of them I lost track.

Posted by: john john on June 7, 2007 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

luci - think installments ...

john john - it's because of the "down his pants" thing.

Posted by: kenga on June 7, 2007 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

Even though Young is a Republican, this is disgusting.

Despite their promise to change the system, the Dems will allow earmarks to be added to a bill for the first time in conference. That is, they will add earmarks that will never be considered by either House. And, they'll let Reps have earmarks, just as the prior Rep Congress allowed Dems to have earmarks.

Congress it badly polarized when it comes to making vital foreign policy. But. they're wonderfully bi-partisan when it comes to giving goodies to their friends. It shows which part of their job they consider most important.

Posted by: ex-liberal on June 7, 2007 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

Earmark-aided land specualtion is the tried and true method of fortune building by politicians. Ask Harry Reid and Dennis Hastert. Harry Truman had it right, when commenting about LBJ; a man who enters public service poor and leaves it rich is certain to be a crook. Do you suppose that it is merely coincidental that Senatorial equity investment performance rivals Warren Buffett's?

A requirement that all members of Congress have their net worth limited to two residences, which cannot change until 10 years after leaving office, and short term treasury instruments, is worth considering. Hell, I'd be happy to raise their salaries to 500K a year in return. It almost certainly would be cheaper, by an extremely large margin. Gosh, you could probably pay them each a couple million a year, and come way out ahead.

Posted by: Will Allen on June 7, 2007 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

"ex-liberal" wrote: Even though Young is a Republican, this is disgusting.

Why the qualification? Ah, I see -- "ex-liberal" runs with the "both sides are equally corrupt" meme.

Of course, such bogus behavior is expected from the GOP's dishonest apologists.

(Has anyone else noticed that "ex-liberal" seems to be making some feeble attempt to redeem his/her/its sullied reputation byut making pro forma disclaimers about the undeniably vile Republican behavior? That dog won't hunt, "ex-liberal" -- your own vile behavior is unforgivable.)

Posted by: Gregory on June 7, 2007 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

quid meet quo.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 7, 2007 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Alaska is kind of like a big refrigerator. He and William Jefferson should get along just fine.

Posted by: Chilly Willy on June 7, 2007 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

Nat Echols, grape_crush: Some years ago, someone gave the SierraClubFoundation $100 million, and he told CarlPope (head of the SC) that if they even came out "against immigration", they'd never receive another dime.

Guess what!

Certainly, no land profiteering involved, just agenda pushing.

Posted by: TLB on June 7, 2007 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Grumpy: "For the record, Interior Alaska where Fort Yukon is located has a continental climate; 90-degree days in summertime are not unusual."

And let's not even get started on the world's most ferocious population of misquitoes ...

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on June 7, 2007 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

who helped raise $40,000 for Mr. Young

...

we got $81 million to expand Interstate 75 and $10 million for the Coconut Road interchange.

What strikes me about a lot of these things is the piddling amounts required to get a huge return commitment. I mean, if five-figure money can buy you in, why not just play the same damned game ourselves and splash around some lobby money in favor of progressive causes? Sure, participation is condoning a corrupt and slimy system, but that system doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon, so why not game it?

Posted by: J. Dunn on June 7, 2007 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

TLB on June 7, 2007 at 1:25 PM:

Some years ago, someone gave the Sierra Club Foundation $100 million, and he told CarlPope (head of the SC) that if they even came out "against immigration", they'd never receive another dime.

Check your timeline, TLB. Gelbaum made the statement six years prior to making that particular donation...Which makes your statement false. Now, whether Gelbaum had an impact on the Sierra Club's stance on immigration, consider this:

In 1998, anti-immigrant activists forced the Sierra Club to put a referendum on immigration on the annual membership ballot...the mainstream environmental movement is not always so good at the racial politics that lurk within its own priorities and assumptions.
Still, this is a long way from the politics of the anti-immigration activists attempting an openly hostile takeover of the Club, with three candidates for the March board elections looking to form a majority with some of the more dubious current board members, and various outside organizations -- some clearly racist and white-supremacist -- encouraging their members to join the Club and sway the vote. "Without a doubt, the Sierra Club is the subject of a hostile takeover attempt by forces allied with ... a variety of right-wing extremists," said the Southern Poverty Law Center in a warning letter. "They hope to use the credibility of the Club as a cover to advance their own extremist views."
The three are Frank Morris, David Pimentel and Richard Lamm, all with links to the anti-immigration organization Diversity Alliance for a Sustainable America. Former Colorado Governor Lamm is also a longtime board member of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which receives funding from the pro-eugenics and "race betterment" Pioneer Fund...

...and right-wing sugardaddy Richard Mellon Scaife.

Any move to shift the Sierra Club's neutral stance on immigration has been defeated repeatedly, by wide margins, by the club's membership. The 'agenda pushing' was being done by anti-immigration proponents backed by groups to the right of Tom Tancredo, not the other way around.

'Lonewhacko'...Very apropos...

Posted by: grape_crush on June 7, 2007 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

TLB,

Please learn how to use the space bar. Thanks.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 7, 2007 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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