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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Charlie Justice goes after Rep. Bill Young's earmarking prowess



U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young has secured hundreds of millions in earmarks over the years, providing critics plenty of material to mine.

Today, Democratic challenger Charlie Justice kicked off what he said would be a rolling "indictment" against the veteran lawmaker by highlighting $13 million Young plugged into the 1998 federal budget to convert the U.S.S. Intrepid into a museum in New York. The money was not sought by the Navy.

“It’s curious that a congressman who represents a tourist destination state like Florida would hide $13 million in taxpayers’ money for a tourist destination in New York Harbor," Justice said in a statement.

"It’s curious, at least, until you learn that Congressman Bill Young got $120,000 in contributions to his campaign in return for boosting tourism in New York."

The contributions came from wealthy donors who sat on the museum's board of directors, according to news reports at the time.

The Intrepid has been a museum since 1982 and has received millions in federal aid. During a 2008 re-dedication ceremony, attended by President George W. Bush, sponsors publicly thanked Young and other members of Congress for supporting the $115 million overhaul.

Young told the St. Retersburg Times, “First, the radical left wants me out of Congress because they just don’t want a voice for reason and Constitutional government who stands in the way of their big government power play. Secondly, everything in their so-called indictment is a matter of public record and has been reported on numerous times over the years.”

Coming to Young's defense was Howard Lutnick, chairman and CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald and a member of the Intrepid museum foundation, who was among the contributors to Young.

"Congressman Bill Young's support of New York in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks is legendary," Lutnick said in a statement. "All of us affected by 9/11, including the families of our 658 employees who perished in the attacks, deeply appreciated his support and compassion and strong leadership, which were instrumental in helping New York recover. We will continue to support Congressman Young as long as he serves in Congress."

What's more, Young's camp noted that Justice is not immune to "earmarks," pointing out that in 2006 Gov. Jeb Bush vetoed his request for spend $187,000 to replace windows and add a generator to a building operated by the Pinellas Association for Retarded Children for use as a hurricane shelter. "The governor was just flat-out wrong to veto this money," Justice said then. Young also supported the shelter.

Young has still not said whether he'll seek re-election, though it's now assumed he will.

Yesterday, Gary Fineout reported a tidbit on Justice that had gone overlooked: Justice paid $1,000 out of his now shuttered state senate campaign account in Oct. 2008 to settle a case over the fact that he accepted two $500 contributions for his 2006 campaign after the contributors had already given the maximum amount for the primary. More here.

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 12:19pm]


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