Little Rock, AR – Former Governor Mike Huckabee announced Friday that U.S. Representative Don Young (R-AK) will serve as congressional chairman of his presidential exploratory committee and U.S. Representative John Boozman (R-AR) will serve as co-chairman.
“It’s an honor to have the strong support of such dedicated and well respected members of the U.S. Congress,” said Huckabee.
“As Governor of Arkansas and NGA Chairman, I worked closely with Don on a range of critical issues, including transportation – which is a passion we both share. I’ve seen him in action and respect his commitment – not only to the people of Alaska, but to our country. I have deep respect for the job he has done in Congress, and I know he’ll do a great job as chairman of my congressional team.”
Congressman Young, of course, is one of the House’s most vaunted purveyors of pork. Here’s The Weekly Standard:
“DON YOUNG’S WAY” is a $231 million bridge to be built in Anchorage. Don Young’s “way” is to use his position as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to bring home as many federal dollars as possible for his home state. For instance, the highway bill passed at the end of July netted over $1 billion in special projects for Alaska. That’s $1,448 in pork for every man, woman, and child in Alaska.
Young’s eponymous bridge isn’t even the most egregious bit of largesse. That honor goes to another bridge, which, for $223 million will connect Ketchikan, population 8,000, with Gravina Island, population 50. The Gravina Island Bridge, which is slated to be taller than the Brooklyn Bridge, will be a towering monument to unnecessity; the small island is already served by ferries, one of which departs every half hour.
Young claims the bridge will facilitate Ketchikan’s growth by providing ground access to the airport on Gravina Island, a rationale that is sure to be mentioned in a “documentary about infrastructure that demonstrates advancements in Alaska, the last frontier,” to which the highway bill allots another $3 million. Perhaps the documentary will also explain how an airport with fewer than 10 flights a day can facilitate such growth, or why the government simply doesn’t purchase a Lear Jet for every inhabitant of Gravina Island–which, as Citizens Against Government Waste has noted, would be cheaper than the bridge.
Amongst this plethora of outrages, however, Don Young’s Way remains emblematic of all that can go wrong with the appropriations process. In the words of Keith Ashdown, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, the chairman’s “naming this boondoggle after himself is a perfect way to symbolize the waste, graft, and parochial politics in this transportation bill.” These problems extend far beyond the borders of Alaska. The highway bill contained some 6,371 earmarks that will cost over $24 billion. Roughly $1 out of every $11 in the legislation will be spent on pet projects instead of building roads and reducing congestion.
John Fund has also reported on Young’s largesse with dollars that belong to taxpayers, not him.
While the man does have many good points–he is a stalwart on guns, for example–it occurs to me that this is not a very reassuring choice as Governor Huckabee endeavors to prove that he is (as Young asserts in the press release) a “true conservative.” David is right that no one is perfect in that regard, but “Don Young’s Way” is not even close.