Rep. Don Young

Rep. Don Young (Board Member)

Don Young - NRA Board Member
United States Representative (R-AK)

Representative Young was born in California in 1933 and moved to Alaska in 1959. Prior to entering politics, Young made his living doing construction work, mining, trapping and fishing. Before entering national politics in 1973, Young served as mayor of Fort Yukon, and as an Alaskan state senator and representative. Due to his lengthy service in the U.S. House of Representatives, Young is currently the sixth most senior member of the House. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) routinely include Young in their “most corrupt” list. Young, who once suggested the “Artic National Wildlife Preserve” be named the “Artic Oil Reserve”, has also appeared on the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) “Dirty Dozen” list for his anti-environment views.

Controversial Actions and Statements

Controversial Actions and Statements:

Rep. Don Young (Board Member)

On November 6, 2013, Young spoke during a Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce luncheon. He stated, “This state has got to say, we’re not following the rules of the federal government unless you can show where there is no detrimental effect to the constituents in the State of Alaska.” Young was expressing support for the concept of nullification, a theory that a state may unilaterally decide when a federal law is “unconstitutional” and refuse to abide by it. The theory of nullification has been repeatedly discredited throughout American history.

Vigilantism

Rep. Don Young (Board Member)

On August 13, 2013, Young spoke at the “Federal Overreach Summit” in Anchorage, Alaska. He stated, “And those of you that work in the federal government, ask yourself, ‘What did I do today for the Alaskan citizens? Did I help them or did I hurt them? Did I impose a restriction that didn’t make sense because someone wrote it back in Washington, D.C. in that little office?’ Ask yourself, do you feel a little bit guilty? Cause you are the government not of the people but government for government’s sake. And that’s not a democracy. That’s not freedom. That becomes a monarchy. A totalitarian state. And this is not just this President. This has been going on now for a period of time since 1935. Do a little reading–a little history. Find out what happened–how Germany collapsed; how Hitler took over, how Stalin became empowered. It’s all because of centralization of a government power, and not the people. Let’s not have the Roman Empire again. I’m going to tell one more story and then we’re out of time. Just think about this. Read ‘The Fall of the Roman Empire.’ The smartest, most advanced nation in the world—aqueducts, waterways, I mean you name it. Very smart people. They were so damn smart they had the greatest army in the world. And they decided no one needed to do any more work anymore. They’d import the workers. The government gave them, remember this now, free grain and olive oil for everybody. The young didn’t need to work. They wanted to become scholars. The military they had was so great, they decided to have mercenaries. But the public got a little bit restless. They were bored, so they built coliseums. The Emperor killed a thousand animals in one day in the coliseum, for the sport of it. They had gladiator fights. They had some Christians crucified. Does that remind you of anything?”

Conspiracy Theory |

Rep. Don Young (Board Member)

During a November 18, 2011 House Natural Resources Committee hearing, Young called the testimony of Rice University professor Doug Brinkley “garbage” and told him, “I'll call you anything I want to call you when you sit in that chair. You just be quiet.” Brinkley angered Young by expressing opposition to oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Later in the hearing, Young compared oil extraction at ANWR to “the hair on your head. You pull one hair, you’re not going to miss it.”

The Environment | Freedom of Speech

Rep. Don Young (Board Member)

On October 13, 1011, Young voted in favor of H.R. 2250, “The EPA Regulatory Relief Act of 2011.” The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warned that the bill, which proposes to loosen regulations on mercury levels in incinerators, will lead to 20,000 premature deaths due to pollution if enacted.

The Environment

Rep. Don Young (Board Member)

On October 13, 2011, Young voted in favor of H.R. 358. The bill—labeled by pro-choice groups as the “Let Women Die Act of 2011”—proposes to effectively prohibit private insurance plans from covering abortion. It would also allow hospitals to deny treatment to women seeking abortions—even in circumstances where an abortion would be necessary to save the life of the mother. U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) slammed the bill, stating, “When the Republicans vote for this bill today, they will be voting to say that women can die on the floor of health care providers ... It's just appalling. I can't even describe to you the logic of what they are doing today.”

Women’s Rights

Rep. Don Young (Board Member)

The House of Representatives passed Young-authored legislation in July 2011 limiting the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate water quality. Young said he wrote the legislation “in response to Conoco Phillips' CD-5 issue on the North Slope, the Kensington Mine outside Juneau, and other such issues where the EPA has gotten in the way of projects that are clearly environmentally sound.” Natural Resources Defense Council attorney Steve Fleischli called the bill "the single worst assault on clean water protections in a generation.”

The Environment

Rep. Don Young (Board Member)

In July 2011, Young was praised by the timber industry after introducing legislation to repeal some federal restrictions on road construction in Alaska’s national parks. The legislation was opposed by the environmental group Earthjustice, whose attorney Tom Waldo said that—in addition to concerns about losing federally protected forest lands—past logging roads built in Alaska’s national parks cost more money to construct than the value of the timber that became accessible.

The Environment

Rep. Don Young (Board Member)

In March 2011, five members of the Alaska Peacemakers Militia, including leader Francis Cox, were arrested for planning to kill Alaska State Troopers and a federal judge. The group—which had stockpiled firearms and explosives—advocated the violent secession of Alaska from the United States. The Peacemakers had earlier distributed a “Letter of Declaration” which called for armed insurrection in response to the federal government’s enactment of gun control laws. Representative Young signed the letter at a Peacemakers “Open Carry” event in a Fairbanks restaurant. When asked during the event, “If any government should decide that we have to register certain of our arms or turn them in, what would your recommendation be?” Young replied, “Don't do it...I sincerely mean that. Don't turn them in.

Political Violence

Rep. Don Young (Board Member)

Fraser Verrusio, hired by Young to work on the House Transportation Committee that he chaired, was convicted of accepting an illegal gratuity and other crimes in February 2011. While working as a policy director, Verrusio received gifts— including an all-expenses paid trip to the 2003 World Series—from a client of Jack Abramoff’s lobbying firm that had business before the committee.

Lobbying Activity | Political Corruption |

Rep. Don Young (Board Member)

In January 2011, Young introduced legislation that proposed to remove the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate a large open pit mine in southwest Alaska. Opponents of the mine warned that its operation could result in the dumping of up to 10 billion tons of toxic waste into the Bristol Bay watershed. Democratic U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell also indicated that the project could harm the wild salmon population in her home state of Washington.

The Environment

Rep. Don Young (Board Member)

In February 2010, Young called global warming “the biggest scam since the Teapot Dome [bribery incident].” Young questioned why “we’ve got to make everything colder” because “ice grows nothing.”

The Environment

Rep. Don Young (Board Member)

In 2008, a genetically distinct species of Beluga whale that live in Alaska’s Cook Inlet was designated by the federal government as an endangered species (against the protests of Young and then-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin). A 2007 count estimated that only 375 whales remained. Young disputes that the protected Belugas are actually genetically distinct from Belugas living outside of the inlet, despite clear scientific evidence to the contrary. Because of the endangered designation, commercial projects in parts of the inlet are subject to increased government regulation and possible proscription by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Young continues to oppose the endangered designation and is worried about the effects of regulation on commercial activity within the inlet.

The Environment

Rep. Don Young (Board Member)

On November 13, 2007, Young voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The bill, which passed the House of Representatives but not the Senate during the 111th Congress, sought to prohibit discrimination by employers against individuals on the basis of sexual orientation.

Gay Rights

Rep. Don Young (Board Member)

A June 8, 2007 fundraising email sent by Young’s chief of staff to 27 supporters in Alaska—23 of whom were lobbyists—warned that “you and your clients will be impacted by [the results of Young’s 2008 congressional reelection campaign].” The email generated at least $90,000 in fundraising for Young’s campaign.

Lobbying Activity |

Rep. Don Young (Board Member)

In April 2007, Mark Zachares, a former top aide to Young, pled guilty to bribery charges in connection to the Jack Abramoff scandal. Zachares accepted thousands of dollars in illegal gratuities from Abramoff in exchange for using his employment on two subcommittees chaired by Young to advance Abramoff’s interests.

Lobbying Activity | Political Corruption |

Rep. Don Young (Board Member)

Young was the subject of a 2007 Justice Department criminal inquiry on the basis of his association with employees of the VECO Corporation that were convicted of bribery. VECO CEO Bill Allen, who hosted a yearly fundraiser for Young called “The Pig Roast,” pled guilty to charges that he bribed three Alaska state legislators. Between 1996 and 2006, VECO fundraisers raised over $150,000 for Young. According to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), VECO benefited from earmarks and legislation proposed by Young during this period.

Political Corruption |

Rep. Don Young (Board Member)

A 2007 guide for interns in Young’s Washington office distributed by paid staff suggested that interns allow an “A Team” of nine transportation lobbyists to “talk to whomever they want” when they called the office. When anyone else called the office, including other Members of Congress, interns were to check with the relevant staffer before putting the call through.

Lobbying Activity |

Rep. Don Young (Board Member)

The Environment

Rep. Don Young (Board Member)

In 2005, Young secured a $223 million earmark for a construction project that became known as “The Bridge to Nowhere.” The bridge was designed to connect Ketchikan, Alaska (pop. 8,000) with Gravina Island (pop. 50) and would have been nearly as long as the Golden Gate Bridge and taller than the Brooklyn Bridge. At this time, a ferry ran every 30 minutes between Gravina Island and the mainland. Young also secured a $231 million earmark in the same bill for a bridge that would have connected Anchorage to Knik, Alaska (pop. 22). This bridge was to be named “Don Young’s Way.” Young openly bragged that the appropriations bill in question was stuffed “like a turkey.” When Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and others suggested that funds from the bridge projects be diverted to provide relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Young responded, “They can kiss my ear! That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.” In response to national outrage over the earmarks, plans to construct both bridges were canceled, but Alaska was allowed to retain the earmarked funds in the state’s general federal highway allotment fund. In 2007, Young warned then-Governor Sarah Palin, “Don’t even think of giving that money back” in response to a Congressional proposal to send some of Alaska’s funds to Minnesota in the wake of a bridge collapse in that state. An August 2007 Palin email indicated that Young continued to work behind the scenes to construct Don Young’s Way. Young was sharply criticized by commentators on both the left and right wing of politics.

Political Corruption |

Rep. Don Young (Board Member)

In 2005, Young secured a $10 million earmark for the improvement of Coconut Road, a street that runs near Fort Myers, Florida. The Republican House Member responsible for the area where Coconut Road is located did not request the funds. Local planning officials rejected the federal money three separate times because they did not want to undertake the project. The connection of the street to Interstate 75 would have been a windfall to developer Daniel Aronoff, who owned a large amount of land near the expansion project. Aronoff, whose lobbyist was to be put directly through to staff whenever he called Young’s office, helped raise $40,000 for Young at a February 2005 fundraiser. Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah (a Republican) stated, “It would appear that Don Young was doing a favor for a major contributor.” Beyond accusations of “pay-to-play” on the part of Young and Aronoff, the Coconut Road project was controversial for a number of other reasons. Environmentalists alleged that the project would threaten protected areas. In 2008, the Senate voted 63-29 to ask the Department of Justice to investigate Young because the earmark was inserted after the bill was finalized by Congress. When a reporter approached Young to discuss the Coconut Road allegations, he responded with an obscene gesture.

Lobbying Activity | Political Corruption |

Rep. Don Young (Board Member)

During the first half of 2005, while a massive transportation bill was being authored in the Young-chaired House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, the Congressman went on a nationwide fundraising tour. Individuals, largely representing non-Alaskan transportation interests, raised $316,000 for Young, compared to $37,862 contributed by Alaskans during the same time period.

Political Corruption |

Rep. Don Young (Board Member)

In September 2002, Young’s PAC received $12,000 from Native American tribes who were clients of (later-convicted) lobbyist Jack Abramoff after he wrote a letter to the General Services Administration (GSA) asking that they receive preferential treatment in the development of the Old Post Pavilion in Washington, D.C.

Lobbying Activity | Political Corruption |

Rep. Don Young (Board Member)

Young repeatedly used his position as chair of the House Resources Committee from 1995 to 2001 to oppose applying United States labor and immigration laws to the Northern Mariana Islands, a United States Commonwealth. A 1998 Department of Interior report documented widespread human rights abuses associated with a booming sweatshop industry on the islands (clothing made on the islands carries a “Made in USA” label). The report found that women and children immigrant workers were subjected to forced
abortions, sex slavery, and substandard pay and working conditions
. Senator Frank Murkowski (R-AK) expressed outrage after personally meeting individuals forced to work without pay and engage in acts of prostitution and became a strong proponent of reform. In 1995 and again in 2000, Young allowed bills (which were unanimously passed by the U.S. Senate) that would have improved conditions for these workers to die in the House Resources Committee. Later-convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff took credit for the failure of the 2000 reform bill, saying “We then stopped it cold in the House.” Between 1994 and 2001, Abramoff was paid $11 million by the Northern Mariana Islands government to lobby in opposition of these reforms. During one 25-month period, Abramoff employees had over 120 contacts with Young or his staff concerning the Northern Mariana Islands. When term limits forced Young to step down as chair of the House Resources Committee, Abramoff wrote the Northern Mariana Island’s anti-reform governor to say, “The loss of Chairman Young's authority cannot easily be measured—or replaced ... We have lost major institutional memory and friendship.” Mark Zachares, who later worked as an aide for Young before pleading guilty to conspiracy as part of the Abramoff lobbying scandal, served as the Commonwealth’s Secretary of Labor and Immigration from 1998 to 2002—during the time that Young blocked immigration and labor reform.

Lobbying Activity | Political Corruption | Immigration | Labor | Women’s Rights

Rep. Don Young (Board Member)

Lobbying Activity | Political Corruption |

Rep. Don Young (Board Member)

On July 29, 1999, Young voted in favor of an amendment to the annual District of Columbia appropriations bill that would have banned adoption by gay parents in the District. The amendment failed 215-213.

Gay Rights

Rep. Don Young (Board Member)

In 1995, Young gave a speech to high school students about the controversial artwork of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. When asked by a student what offended Young about the photographs, the Congressman responded, “Butt fucking. You think that’s art?

Education | Gay Rights

Rep. Don Young (Board Member)

During a 1994 Congressional hearing, Young angrily waved an 18-inch oosik (walrus penis bone) at Mollie Beattie, the first female director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Women’s Rights

Rep. Don Young (Board Member)

In 1988, Young unsheathed his Buck knife on the House floor and threatened political retribution against Representative Robert Mrazek (D-NY) after the Democratic Congressman sponsored a bill to protect Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.

The Environment | Political Violence
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