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Don Young disputes allegation he's under investigation again

The lawyer for Alaska U.S. Rep. Don Young sent a letter to the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington D.C., demanding that the group retract an assertion that Young is "likely" still under federal investigation for cases that, according to CREW "have not been reported previously."

The group makes this assertion based on the fact that the FBI chose to withhold some documents from the group in a federal open-records request pertaining to Young released on Friday.

The documents that the group did receive are mostly related to Young's involvement in the infamous case of Coconut Road. Until 2010, the FBI and the Department of Justice had been investigating Young’s role in 2005 in helping to steer a $10 million earmark to a road project in Florida favored by a campaign supporter. 

The DOJ announced that it dropped the investigation in 2010. Last year, the House Ethics Committee looked into a donation to Young's legal defense fund, but cleared him of wrong-doing. There's also been some suggestion that the FBI was looking into gifts from VECO Corp. as part of its botched prosecution of the late Sen. Ted Stevens, but nothing came of that and that investigation is closed.

Campaign disclosures also indicate that the Feds were looking into Steve Dougherty, who was Young's campaign manager and was responsible for invoicing and keeping track of Young's campaign money.  In 2008 it was reported that Young's campaign paid $90,020 to John Wolfe, a Seattle attorney who, according to press accounts represented Dougherty.

On Monday, Wolfe declined to say if he represented Dougherty.

Young's lawyer, John Dowd, said in a letter to CREW that assuming that Young is under investigation because of the withheld documents demonstrates the group's "naiveté regarding federal investigations."

"Whether the Department of Justice currently is investigating someone other than Don Young using a witness or document that was also found in the file of the now-closed investigation of Congressman Young is not something about which I have any knowledge. Nor do you," he wrote.

A Justice Department spokesperson decline comment, saying DOJ doesn't "confirm or deny the existence of investigations."

Dowd said in an interview that DOJ told him in 2010 that there were no further investigations regarding Young. He also said that if Alaska Dispatch printed otherwise, we were "on notice" -- before hanging up on a reporter.

Luke Miller, Young's spokesperson, also denied that Young was under investigation. "The ongoing accusations that he is are both reckless and inaccurate," Miller wrote in a statement. "After having cooperated with the investigative process, partisan, Outside organizations are now trying to smear his name."

Indeed, though CREW calls itself nonpartisan, the bulk of CREW's investigations and complaints involve Republicans. 

For its part, CREW stands by its statement. Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director, told Dowd in a letter that his focus on Coconut Road appears "designed to obscure any other matter related to Don Young that has been the subject of past or present ethics investigations."

Sloan also takes credit for informing the public that Young and his wife misused campaign funds, as was alleged by a single source in FBI interview notes released in the public records release.

The source, whose name was redacted in the documents, alleges that Young and his wife would often charge non-campaign related meals to the campaign, as well as trips to Fort Yukon -- "the official residence of the Youngs," the documents say.

The DOJ is not charging Young for those alleged abuses. Dowd, Young's lawyer, said in an email that "Any and all allegations concerning Don Young by DOJ to the House Committee on Standards were resolved without action or penalty."

The case was being investigated by the FBI and the beleaguered Public Integrity Section of the Department of Justice. It's unclear if any of the agents or lawyers involved in investigating Young were also involved in the botched Alaska federal corruption probe.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amanda@alaskadispatch.com