A heavy-hitting Washington, D.C., lawyer emerged Friday to publicly defend Alaska Congressman Don Young from criticism that he's not coming clean on his legal bills.
Young is running for re-election and has repeatedly refused to say how he spent $854,045 in campaign funds on legal fees last year. John Dowd, an attorney who specializes in representing high-profile politicians in legal trouble, told the Daily News on Friday that Young is doing what he told him to.
Young himself still wasn't talking Friday. He was scheduled to have a news conference in Wasilla but canceled it after his staffers tried to ban Daily News reporters from attending and the reporters refused to leave.
Young has been under investigation for his ties to Veco Corp., for fundraising activities and for his role in specific congressional earmarks, according to various media reports. He has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
Gov. Sarah Palin said Thursday that Young owes the public an explanation for why he's spending people's campaign contributions on legal expenses.
Dowd said Young has met with Department of Justice investigators and answered their questions. Young also produced all the documents they asked for, he said.
"Cooperating and providing records and materials is very expensive," Dowd said.
Dowd said he's advised Young not to talk about "matters under investigation." The Justice Department also requested Young not talk about them, Dowd said.
Dowd would not answer questions about the investigation or details of the legal work he is doing for Young. Public reports show that Young's re-election campaign paid Dowd's firm, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer, more than $750,000 last year.
Dowd's involvement in the investigation wasn't known until he contacted the Daily News on Friday in defense of Alaska's lone congressman. Among other high-profile cases he's worked on, Dowd represented Sen. John McCain during the Keating Five scandal in the 1980s.
McCain was never charged or sanctioned after being accused of improperly helping savings and loan operator Charles Keating Jr. The Washington Post described Dowd as a major fundraiser for McCain in the current presidential race before throwing his support to Fred Thompson.
Other clients have included an Arizona governor in a bank and wire fraud case, a Nevada senator in a bribery case and Monica Goodling, who was counsel to Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez and refused to cooperate with congressional Democrats investigating the U.S. attorney firings.
He's defended clients in scandals ranging from Iran-contra to Enron. The commissioner of Major League Baseball hired him to investigate Pete Rose's gambling. Rose was banned from baseball as a result.
Dowd said spending campaign contribution on legal expenses is permitted through a 2007 Federal Election Commission opinion. Arizona Rep. Jim Kolbe had requested the opinion because he wanted to spend campaign cash on legal bills related to inquiries into a rafting trip he took that included underage male pages.
The FEC decided Kolbe could use campaign money because the trip was in connection with his congressional duties.
Dowd said Young's legal expenses relate to his duties as a congressman as well.
Young called a news conference in Wasilla on Friday at the Mat-Su congressional delegation office. But he canceled it after two Daily News reporters showed up along with a KTUU Channel 2 News crew and a reporter from a Valley radio station.
Congressional delegation staff said the Daily News reporters would have to leave before Young arrived. None of the other members of the media were barred from attending.
The staffers said the event was just for Valley media. The Daily News is the largest circulation newspaper in the Mat-Su Borough and the newspaper's Valley bureau had been invited to the news conference.
After a phone conversation with Young's Washington staff, the Mat-Su delegation staff announced Young was canceling the news conference after the Daily News reporters wouldn't leave.
Young had grown angry at a news conference earlier in the week when reporters from the Daily News and other media organizations asked him about his legal bills.
Young said McClatchy Co., the owners of the Daily News, and the Defenders of Wildlife were part of a group that was attempting to unseat him from office.
Find Sean Cockerham online at adn.com/contact/scockerham or call him at 257-4344.
Prominent cases featuring John Dowd
BASEBALL: Major League Baseball Commissioner Bartlett Giamatti hired Dowd to investigate Pete Rose's gambling. Rose was banned from baseball in 1989.
MCCAIN: Dowd represented Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in the Keating/Savings & Loan investigation, 1990. McCain was neither charged nor sanctioned.
SYMINGTON: Dowd represented Arizona Gov. Fife Symington. He was convicted in 1997 of bank and wire fraud. He was pardoned by President Clinton after winning an appeal.
Other notable Dowd clients
Sen. Howard Cannon, D-Nev.: Investigated but not charged in Teamster bribe case, 1980.
Robert Dutton: Air Force officer who helped run the Iran-Contra supply plan, 1987.
David Delainey: Low-level defendant in the Enron scandal, 2006.