Alaska Republican (A Different One) Suspected of Biggest Earmark Grab Ever

The stench from a recently discovered earmark in the 2005 Federal Transportation bill is making members of the Lee County, Florida Metropolitan Planning Organization board swoon. They are also demanding an explanation.

Back in 2005 — before voters the following year tossed out corrupt Republican politicians by the handfuls — it was business as usual for Transportation Committee Chair Rep. Bob Young (R-Alaska) to pay back a donor with a gift from the public till. He appears to have done just that by slipping into the bill new I-75 exit and entrance ramps to a development project being built by a crony.

“I’ve seen little gimmicks and little tricks used to make sure somebody’s friend or contributor is taken care of but this is by far one of the more underhanded, surreptitious examples I’ve seen — ever.”

Young visited Southwest Florida in early 2005 to attend a town hall meeting.

While in town, Daniel Aronoff, a wealthy part-time Naples resident who owns property east of Coconut Road and would benefit from the interchange, held a fundraiser for Young…

The words “Coconut Road interchange” were not in the federal transportation bill approved by Congress in 2005.

Those words were attached to a $10 million earmark sometime after the House and Senate votes but before the president signed the bill into law.

Young can at least be proud that people are hailing his alleged move as one of the most egregious ever. After all, if you’re going to go then go big. But if he did it, as O.J. would say, then how?

The language within the earmark was changed during a process called “bill enrollment,” when technical corrections are made to legislation before being sent to the president. Such corrections include changes to punctuation, section numbers or updates to reflect final actions taken by the House and Senate.

“This goes beyond the intent of the technical corrections process,” said Keith Ashdown, a researcher for the Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington, D.C., watchdog group. “It’s supposed to be about getting your punctuation right, not about making sure that your major benefactor is getting their pork…I’ve seen little gimmicks and little tricks used to make sure somebody’s friend or contributor is taken care of but this is by far one of the more underhanded, surreptitious examples I’ve seen — ever.”

Even after people started getting whiffs of the stinky largess, Young and fellow Republican Rep. Connie Mack tried to make it sound like an offer Naples, Florida couldn’t refuse.

In letters to county leaders, Young and U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers, warned that the money could be lost and future funding jeopardized should it be rejected.

In fact, funding reallocations happen all the time.

Board members want to get to the bottom of the issue by their Aug. 17 meeting when they will decide how, with all the actual urgent priorities for roads in their area, the money should best be spent.

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