WASHINGTON – The Justice Department is investigating whether an Alaska oil contractor used golf tournaments to funnel cash to Rep. Don Young, people close to the corruption investigation said.
The contractor, Rick Smith, told investigators that Young personally received cash at the events. Once an important ally who helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for Young’s election committee, Smith has become a key government informant.
As part of his cooperation, Smith allowed FBI agents to record his telephone calls with the Republican congressman in a corruption sting. The former VECO Corp. vice president has pleaded guilty to bribing state lawmakers to support oil-friendly legislation.
Details of Smith’s cooperation against Alaska’s 18-term congressman were confirmed by people close to the case who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.
The case, which surfaced last year as a state bribery investigation, has spread from Alaska to Capitol Hill, where Young and Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens are under scrutiny.
Two of the most powerful Republicans in Congress, Young and Stevens are influential figures in setting U.S. energy policy and have close ties to VECO.
The events under FBI scrutiny were different from typical golf outings used by interest groups to curry favor with politicians. Unlike the dollar-for-dollar accounting of golf fundraisers in Alaska, Washington state and Virginia, the events at the Moose Run Golf Course just outside Anchorage were informal and the prizes were cash. There is no record of them on the campaign or personal financial reports that federal lawmakers are required to file.
“That tournament had nothing to do with the campaign or anything official. It was just people getting together to play golf,” said Young’s campaign spokesman, Mike Anderson, who declined to discuss the tournaments or how often Young won. “The congressman finds it inappropriate to discuss anything connected to an ongoing investigation.”