Rep. Don Young criticized Democrat Forrest Dunbar on Thursday for bringing up U.S. House ethics violations in a televised debate for U.S. Congress, arguing that he was found not guilty because he received a letter of reproval, not a sanction.
"I was hoping, Forrest, you would stay away from that subject because I've been found not guilty in every aspect," Young said, portraying a letter of reproval from the House Ethics Committee in June as a vindication of sorts.
In the statewide debate on public TV, Dunbar, 30, had asked Young, 81, if he could honestly say that his ethics violations have not cost Alaska influence in Congress.
"I can honestly say it has not cost any influence," Young said, adding that his ability to get things done is "very, very evident."
"Members of Congress respect me for what I can do and how I represent this state," he said.
On June 18, the House Ethics Committee released a report saying Young had "violated House Rules and other laws, rules and standards of conduct by improperly using campaign funds for personal purposes and by improperly accepting impermissible gifts."
He repaid the $59,063 identified by the committee as improper, expenses linked in most cases to 15 hunting trips taken by Young, family members and staff members between 2001 and 2013.
"I was reproved by the Congress, which was the least of all," Young said.
In the midst of a Department of Justice investigation, Young had asked the Ethics Committee to look at the matter in 2010, the committee report said. The committee said Young should be reproved because of a "lack of appropriate safeguards and an inattention to the relevant standards of conduct."
"I do think I could have disputed but I did say, 'OK, I follow what you asked me to do,' " Young said. "That was the gentlemanly thing to do and I did pay, but that is not any kind of a reprimand of any type or any sort."
He said Dunbar should be talking about what he can do, not questioning Young about ethics. "It shows your inexperience," said Young, a member of Congress since 1973.
Dunbar said the "bombastic" approach Young uses may have worked when he was chairman of a committee, but he is no longer a chairman and Alaska needs more "ethical and effective representation in Congress."