Friday, April 18, 2008

Update on 'Republicans half-hearted in "earning" back the majority'

'Republicans half-hearted in "earning" back the majority' was posted back in August of 2007 highlighting Congressman Bill Young's earmaking ways.

Now, it appears that Mr. Young is caught up in a scandal that involves the altering of an earmark after all the voting was completed:

First there was the Bridge to Nowhere, now comes the earmark from nowhere.

The project: a $10 million interchange between I-75 and Coconut Road in Lee County, Florida. Local officials did not request it but it was added to the 2005 Transportation Bill, reportedly by someone who worked for Rep. Don Young (R-AK). It was one earmark among 6,300 earmarks in the massive $286 billion highway bill signed into law three years ago.

But something extraordinary happened with this earmark. In the bill that Congress passed, the project was to widen I-75. But in the bill that went to the president, that project had been mysteriously deleted and replaced with "Coconut Rd. interchange I-75/Lee County.” The difference between the two projects is dramatic. The original I-75 earmark for widening the highway would have provided broad public benefits, but as changed, would fund a project that would benefit a small constituency and provide narrow public benefits.

Five months before the earmark became law, local developers hosted a fundraiser for the then-Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee - you guessed it - Representative Don Young. As a result, Rep. Young netted close to $40,000 in campaign contributions, mostly from southwestern Florida developers and builders.

One of the developers that attended the fundraiser was Daniel Aronoff, who owns 4,000 acres adjacent to Coconut Road, including 1,200 acres directly east of the proposed interchange. The value of Aronoff's land would be significantly increased if Coconut Road was connected to I-75 by a new interchange.

The public has a right to know how a bill passed by both the House and Senate was mysteriously changed before arriving on the president's desk. And the wrong must be righted...


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