Ethics watchdog requests documents from Young probe

Richard Mauer

A watchdog group said Wednesday that it is asking the Justice Department to release its files in at least two closed corruption investigations of U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska.

Washington, D.C.,-based Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a liberal-leaning nonprofit, will go to court if, as likely, the Justice Department claims the files are exempt under the Freedom of Information Act, said CREW executive director Melanie Sloan.

Along with Young, CREW is seeking the investigative files of Republican Rep. Jerry Lewis from Redlands, Calif., who was accused of steering earmarks to the clients of a lobbyist friend. It earlier asked the Justice Department for the investigations of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and lobbyist Paul Magliocchetti, who pleaded guilty in September to making hundreds of thousands of dollars of illegal campaign contributions.

"And we will be suing -- we're going to litigate all of them," Sloan said in an interview. "The Public Integrity Section, in our view, is not doing its job and we want to know why."

The Justice Department's Public Integrity Section prosecutes high profile political crimes and led the corruption investigation into Alaska's politics. But after getting convictions of three Alaska legislators, several businessmen and a lobbyist, the investigation collapsed under allegations of prosecutorial misconduct in the 2008 trial of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.

Young was under investigation since at least 2006 over allegations he accepted illegal campaign contributions and gifts from the now-defunct oil-field service company Veco and its convicted chairman Bill Allen. He was also being investigated for an earmark in a transportation bill for a Florida interchange sought by a developer who provided him campaign money.

In August, Young announced that the Justice Department had told his lawyers that it had decided against indicting him and had dropped its investigations. The department wouldn't independently confirm the assertion, and legal experts have said the case could be reopened if new information surfaced.

"The requested documents would shed light on the conduct of the (Justice Department) and the FBI in conducting the investigation of Rep. Young and the (department's) decision to close the investigation without bringing charges against him," CREW said in its Freedom of Information Act letter to the Justice Department's Criminal Division. "In addition, while DOJ decided not to prosecute Rep. Young, his activities still may have been illegal or violations of the rules of the House, and the requested records would shed light on them."

If the investigations are closed, the only evidence that would be properly exempt from disclosure is material collected or presented to a grand jury, Sloan said.

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