Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ted Stevens & Don Young: Hogs go to Slaughter

"Ted Stevens used to be a respected independent voice in the Senate. But his obsession with opening the Alaska wildlife refuge to oil drilling, and his nearly 40 years in the Senate, have left him an embittered, tired old politician with a host of grudges.

Then there’s the Congressman for Life, Representative Don Young, 74. You know him from the Bridge to Nowhere, his effort to direct more than $200 million to build a span nearly as long as the Golden Gate Bridge from Ketchikan to an island with less than 100 people.

As chairman of the committee that bundled all pet projects into a single transportation bill last year, Young had this to say about the legislative process: “I stuffed it like a turkey.”

He said he was proud to be one of the biggest pigs at the trough — he used the word “oinker” — because the power to control $300 billion only comes around once in a lifetime. But as it turned out, the pipe dream really was a bridge to somewhere: the back door. Many Republicans say it cost them control of the House in the 2006 election.

Last week, David D. Kirkpatrick wrote in The Times about one of Young’s other earmarks — $10 million to a Florida district whose congressman had never requested it. But a Florida real estate developer who stood to gain a huge windfall with the new road was very interested in the project. So much so that he helped to raise $40,000 for the sole congressman from Alaska."

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