Octogenarian congressman Young files for re-election

rmauer@adn.comJuly 3, 2013 

Rep. Don Young filed for re-election Tuesday in search of his 21st full two-year term in the U.S. House.

In a brief conversation with reporters after he filed at the Elections Division office in Anchorage, Young said he is still vigorous and mentally fit after turning 80 last month. He walked into the office hand-in-hand with his girlfriend, Anne Walton of Fairbanks. Young's wife, Lu, died in 2009.

His hands quavered slightly when he reached for the forms from an election clerk and the lace of one of his sneakers was untied, but Young was feisty with reporters and later with protesters from a community fishing group.

"People retire when they're not happy with what they do, and I still like what I'm doing," Young said. "I'm probably in better shape than most people, and I've always said as long as I physically can do this job, I'm going to do it. The mental part, you know, I'm qualified to be in Congress now."

"Yeah, but that's not a high bar," a reporter noted.

"That's what I'm saying!" Young replied.

Young dismissed an ongoing House Ethics Committee investigation into his use of campaign funds for personal travel and possibly other issues, and said he didn't know if the panel would finish before the 2014 election.

In August 2010, he learned from a Justice Department letter to his attorney that he had survived a four-year FBI investigation into possible financial disclosure violations, his role in earmarking transportation funds in Florida to benefit a contributor and other potential criminal violations. But the House Ethics Committee has an easier time gathering evidence than the FBI. The Constitution's Speech or Debate Clause protects members of Congress from prosecution for most activities related to legislation; the Ethics Committee, as a branch of Congress, has no such restrictions, though its toughest sanction is expulsion, not prison.

"I'm going through this process -- it's a little frustrating because they tried to replow the same field," Young said. "I was exonerated by the federal government and the ethics committee is going to do what they have to do and I expect the same result that came out of the judicial investigation."

"I think Alaskans know what's going on here," he added. "I expect Alaskans to understand I'm the Congressman for all of Alaska and I'll continue to be one."

As he left the Elections Division counter, he was confronted by about 10 members of the Coastal Villages Region Fund, a Community Development Quota organization representing 20 villages in southwestern Alaska.

The CDQ program was set up and refined by the North Pacific Fisheries Council and Congress, originally at the urging of the late Sen. Ted Stevens, to boost the economies of coastal villages by granting them a quota of fish. Dawson Hoover, spokesman for the Coastal Villages Region Fund, said some CDQ groups made out much better than others, especially when population is considered. Hoover said his region is economically depressed while other CDQ groups with far smaller populations are taking in millions of dollars in profits from ocean fisheries.

When members of Coastal Villages met with Young in April, Hoover said in an interview, they were rudely dismissed and told not to come back unless all six CDQ groups agreed to new allocations. That's unlikely to happen, Hoover said, and Congress should take note of inequities and resolve them.

But Young was defiant when he confronted Hoover and the other protesters.

"I want to ask you one question -- how do I take something from him and give it to you?" he asked Hoover, pointing to another demonstrator.

"You get their fair share," Hoover replied.

"Wait a minute -- that was not the agreement," Young said, referring to the original allocations.

"You can't split them evenly," Hoover said, suggesting that population numbers should be part of the calculation, with adjustments made accordingly.

"That's what everybody agreed to," Young said.

After a few minutes, the confrontation ended and each went their separate ways.

Young acknowledged that despite his longevity, there are no guarantees.

"There'll be a some day that somebody will challenge me and possibly be successful, or the Good Lord will take care of me -- one or the other -- so my job is to keep doing what I've always done, and believe it or not, the ability to know how things are done and how they're not being done, and recognizing that, I think is crucial being a congressman," he said.

Reach Richard Mauer at rmauer@adn.com or 257-4345.

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