Politics & Government

Alaska Rep. Young still raising money for legal defense fund

WASHINGTON — Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, continues to raise money for his legal bills even though he said last year that federal investigators have dropped a criminal inquiry into his campaign fundraising and other matters.

Young's office won't say whether he continues to owe his lawyers from the closed investigations or if there's an additional inquiry adding to his legal bills. But this year he raised $92,000 for the legal expense fund, which was barely active last year when the congressman was up for re-election to his 20th term of office.

Young's chief of staff, Pamela Day, said the money was raised largely from an event in January in Texas. She referred all other questions about the legal expense fund to its trustee in Anchorage, Gail Schubert, who did not return a phone call.

Since 2007, Young has spent more than $1 million on lawyers, mostly from his campaign account. The legal expense fund, set up in 2008, doesn't have the same restrictions on contribution limits and corporate contributions as a political campaign account. The fund has raised $179,000 since Young opened it in 2008. Disclosure forms filed last month show that since the fund opened, $98,415 total has gone to Washington D.C.-based law firm Akin Gump.

The firm responded to allegations that Young accepted illegal campaign contributions and gifts from the now-defunct oil-field service company Veco and its chairman Bill Allen. Young also was under investigation for an earmark in a transportation bill for a Florida interchange sought by a developer who donated to the congressman's campaign.

In August, Young announced that the Justice Department had told his lawyers it had decided against indicting him, and it had dropped its investigations. Investigators wouldn't independently confirm Young's assertion, and some legal experts have said the case could be reopened if new information surfaced. One watchdog group has sued the Justice Department asking for it to release Young's files.

Young, in the midst of his re-election bid in 2010, didn't raise any money for the legal expense fund until the last half of the year, when he received four donations totaling $25,000. The fund paid out no money in 2010.

He has never disclosed a debt for legal bills on his financial disclosure forms, the documents he's required to file each spring to show his assets, liabilities and financial obligations.

However, Young did disclose in 2009 that he received $77,000 in 2008 for legal expenses. He reported receiving $12,500 in such donations in 2009.

Young set up the legal expense fund in 2008, with a spokesman saying at the time that it was so that his campaign cash wouldn't have to go toward lawyers. But it also allowed him to tap a new source of donors, including corporations and people who had already given to his campaign.

The legal fund allows donors who have already contributed the maximum to campaign accounts to contribute another $5,000 toward legal expenses. Lobbyists are barred from donating to it, and Young can't actively solicit contributions. But individuals who aren't lobbyists as well as corporations are allowed to give him money.

The chief givers to the legal expense fund have been old friends and fishery interests, including Trident Seafoods.

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