Government Spending

Don Young's Obscene Gesture


In January I expressed my skepticism about the House's earmark reforms, noting that they "rely mainly on greater openness to shame legislators into better fiscal behavior, and when it comes to pork legislators have no shame." But here's an earmark that should embarrass even Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), he of the Bridge to Nowhere: Young, then chairman of the House Transportation Committee, slipped $10 million into a 2006 appropriations bill for road improvements that would benefit a developer who had just raised $40,000 for the congressman. The kicker is that the road is located in Florida, where, as The New York Times dryly notes, Young "has no constituents." Neither local officials nor the district's congressman, Republican Connie Mack, requested the money. When the local planning commission objected to the project, the Times reports, Young "warned that his committee would draft another bill taking away the $10 million if it was not used for the interchange."

Bringing home pork for your constituents may be a point of pride, but what about sending pork to another state for the benefit of a campaign contributor? There are signs that Young is at least a little bit ashamed of that. "When he was approached near the House floor by a reporter," according to the Times, "Mr. Young responded with an obscene gesture."