Monday, April 23, 2007

Don Young

When the next congressional elections occur, Don Young will have been a member of the House of Representatives for 35 years, representing Alaska, a state where the average age of residents is below 34. He, himself, will be 75.

In 2008, he received 57% of the vote, down somewhat from his previous performances, but hardly anything to make him worry, or even campaign. Diane Benson, his Democratic opponent, ran a good campaign, which some regarded as the first significant challenge to the man who calls himself the “Congressman for all Alaskans.” The activist playwright, actress and poet received roughly 40% of the vote.

Big Mitch feels that she didn’t hit hard enough. The Jack Abramoff/Tom Delay scandal relating to the Northern Mariana Islands, has Don Young’s fingerprints all over it. In 2000, the Senate unanimously passed Sen. Frank Murkowski’s (R-AK) Northern Mariana Islands worker rights reform bill. Basically the bill was intended to address the slave-like working conditions in Saipan, where garment manufacturers produce clothing labeled “Made in America.” Don Young blocked the bill and so it was never considered in the House of Representatives. Given the working conditions there – which included forced abortions for women pressed into prostitution – this could have been a good issue.

Lately, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that records show that Young’s campaign paid a $25,000 retainer to a law firm because the feds are looking into new truck-hauling rules that Young helped push through in 2005 as part of a major transportation spending bill. Dennis Troha, a Wisconsin businessman who personally benefited from the measure gave the Young $20,000 and he, too, has lawyered up.

All of which would make you think that Young is vulnerable in 2008. But you would be overlooking the fact that he brings home the bacon, and that counts for a lot in Alaska. After all, we are talking about a guy who in 1995, during the controversy relating to the homoerotic art of Robert Mapplethorpe, told an assembly of high school students that he opposed federal funding for any art that portrayed people doing “offensive things.” Pressed for an example by an inquisitive student, Young quickly answered, “Butt-fucking.” It’s pretty hard to defend his choice of words, but he gave it the old college try: He said that his answer would have lacked impact if he had used milder words.

The thing that made me think of Don Young recently is that over on TPM Muckraker they are reporting that 25 senators have demanded that the administration give some answers about GSA chief, Lurita Doan. Seems she has been trying to find a way to use the considerable buying power of the federal government to “help our [Republican] candidates.” In this effort, she employed a PowerPoint presentation which you can see here. (pdf)

Interestingly, said PowerPoint presentation indicates that Don Young may be vulnerable, and more importantly, that he may decline to run. It’s time for a Democrat to start gearing up to run for Congress.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

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