WASHINGTON --- The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington says there are indications Alaska Congressman Don Young is currently under federal investigation, a charge Young's lawyer calls an outrageous smear.
CREW's assertion is based on the Department of Justice blacking out information the group requested about Young.
"The FBI withheld some documents claiming they relate to an ongoing law enforcement investigation. This suggests Rep. Young is the subject of a current criminal inquiry, which has not been reported previously," the group said in a written statement.
The withheld information is from documents released Friday in response to a judge's order in a freedom of information lawsuit brought by CREW. The group was seeking records related to a federal investigation of Young that the congressman says is over.
Young's lawyer, Washington defense counsel John Dowd, said there is no current investigation and CREW's claim is nonsense.
"(CREW) is some of the most reckless people I have ever seen," Dowd said. "They are just trying to smear him, hurt an old man. He did everything right, he cooperated with everyone, there is no case there."
CREW chief counsel Anne Weismann said the group is just relying on the reason the Justice Department gave for blacking out the information.
"It's one of two things. Either there is an investigation and Mr. Young doesn't know about it or is denying it, or the Justice Department falsely relied on a (Freedom of Information Act) exemption that does not apply," she said.
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment, saying the department does not confirm or deny investigations.
CREW lawyer Weismann said it is "possible" the Justice Department withheld the information because it relates to an ongoing criminal investigation of someone other than Young. But she said information was held back dealing specifically with the probe of Young, indicating he is the one under current investigation.
Young's lawyer, Dowd, said that's ridiculous and that the charges by CREW are "false, completely, utterly false."
"I just think it's outrageous to keep trying to hurt a man who cooperated with all of the (investigative) processes of the executive and legislative branch and they found nothing. It's time to move on," Dowd said.
Young had been under investigation by the FBI starting in at least 2006. Young, like former Sen. Ted Stevens and several Alaska legislators, was investigated for his connections to the disgraced oil-field service contractor, Bill Allen, and his Veco Corp.
In 2008, Congress discovered that Young or someone from his office had changed his 2005 transportation bill after it passed Congress. The edited version of the bill funded start-up work on the Coconut Road interchange in Florida sought by a contributor to Young. Congress asked the FBI to investigate the circumstances.
Then in August 2010, Young said his lawyer heard from the Justice Department that it had closed its investigations without seeking his indictment.
U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler in January ordered the Justice Department to turn over to CREW documents relating to the Coconut Road investigation.
CREW lawyer Weismann said the documents released Friday indicate the Justice Department had started its Coconut Road investigation of Young in 2007, a year before Congress asked the FBI to investigate what happened with the transportation bill.
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