JUNE 11, 2007
In yet another example of the severe ethical problems with Congressional earmarks, an Alaska lawmaker slipped $10 million into a transportation bill for a Florida road that will benefit a developer who raised thousands for his reelection campaign.
The stretch of pavement passes through five gulf clubs in lush southwest Florida and ends in the panoramic Gulf of Mexico. The earmark will help finance an interchange that will connect it to the main highway and greatly enhance the value of the properties even though local planning boards have twice opposed the project because it will threaten sensitive wetlands.
The Republican Alaska Representative who sneaked into the bill the millions to benefit an area far away from the one he represents in the United States Congress–hot and sunny southwest Florida–is Don Young, the same legislator who steered more than $200 million for a bridge that serves a remote Alaskan island with only 80 people. That scandalous project was appropriately called the Bridge to Nowhere.
This latest giveaway of taxpayer dollars is to thank a prominent real estate developer named Daniel Aronoff for helping raise $40,000 for Young’s campaign. Aronoff owns the nearly 4,000 acres that will benefit from the road connection and in 2005 he flew Young to Florida on a private jet and held a fundraiser at an upscale Fort Myers resort because the veteran lawmaker chaired the powerful House Transportation Committee.
Young, notorious for his strong ties to oil companies, developers and industry lobbyists, has dismissed his latest earmark as old news, saying that “when you are chairman of the largest committee in the House and a senior member and in charge of writing a $290-odd billion bill, it’s a guarantee that you are going to be raising more money than other less senior members.”
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