Thursday, January 27, 2011

Watchdog Group Seeks Files on Probe into Don Young, and One of Young's Former Aides Goes on Trial in Corruption Case


A Washington, D.C-based ethics watchdog organization has asked the Department of Justice to hand over its files in at least two closed federal investigations into corruption allegations against U.S. Rep. Don Young, R.-Alaska, reports the Anchorage Daily News.

Rich Mauer's article says that Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has sent a letter asking the government to release the information under the Freedom of Information Act. His story notes that Young faced a probe regarding alleged illegal contributions and gifts from the former oil patch giant VECO and its long-time CEO (and current inmate) Bill Allen as well as an investigation into the Congressman for all Alaska's role in the "Coconut Road" earmark for a Florida interchange project benefiting a developer who had donated to his campaign.

After the federal government had investigated him for at least four years, Young announced in August that the Justice Department had advised his attorneys that it was ending the probes and that he would not be indicted.

CREW acknowledged that the Justice Department will likely claim that FOIA exempts the government's investigation files from disclosure, and the group that Mauer describes as "a liberal-leaning non-profit" has said it will sue if the feds don't let go of the files. In addition to Young's files, CREW is also asking for the release of investigative files regarding other probes into alleged corruption involving Congress.

In other news related to Don Young's service on Capitol Hill, a jury has heard opening statements in a corruption-related trial of a former aide to Alaska's sole Member of the House.

You can read the Associated Press story at the Website of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. (A shorter version is on the Website of the Anchorage Daily News.)

Get past the "high life" details about Fraser Verrusio's trip to a 2003 World Series game involving a chauffeured Cadillac, dinner at a steakhouse, and a strip joint called "Privilege." The best tidbits come at the end of the AP story, and they have to do with the federal investigation into Young himself.

Verrusio's defense attorney told the jury yesterday that the former policy director for Young at the House Transportation Committee thought FBI agents who came to his house two years ago regarding what he's now charged with were there for another purpose: Verrusio thought they wanted to talk to him about what Verrusio knew about Young's connections to Allen. The defense lawyer said that when the agents arrived in December of 2008, Verrusio had been "meeting with an agent for over a year to provide background information on his boss but rejected persistent requests to wear a wire and secretly record their conversations."

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