For decades, Rep. C.W. Bill Young has built a formidable reputation by sending tens of millions of dollars in political pork back home while also maintaining a high ethical standard — no easy feat. Now, a recent report by the St. Petersburg Times about some of Young's budget earmarks profiting companies that employ two of his sons raises troubling questions.
Young, who was chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee for six years and hasn't lost his earmarking ability, has directed nearly $45-million in federal money to defense contractor Science Applications International Corp. That's the same company that hired his son, Patrick Young, about a year ago in its St. Petersburg office, Times staff writers Bill Adair and Wes Allison reported.
Patrick Young works with intelligence data that requires a high-level security clearance, which would seem to be a unique opportunity for a 20-year-old with only a GED degree and scant work experience. And that's not the only link between the congressman's largesse and a son. Young has directed more than $28-million over nine years to the National Forensic Science Technology Center in Largo where son Billy Young, 23, has been employed for less than a year. The earmarks arrived before and after the sons were hired.
Both employers deny any connection between their decisions to hire the sons and the father's political clout. "He's a good employee," Kevin Lothridge, executive director of the forensic center, said of Billy Young, who has a college degree. "I don't care if his last name is Young or not." Yet common sense tells you that the name certainly didn't hurt.
Young, R-Indian Shores, said his decisions on earmarks for the companies have nothing to do with his sons' employment. And the transactions apparently don't violate House ethics rules because Young had only to disclose that he and wife Beverly Young (the sons' mother) have no financial interest involved.
Young should hold himself to a higher standard, however. He and the recipient companies might say with a straight face that the sons earned their jobs strictly on their own abilities, never mind that the father peddles more pork than a barbecue franchise, but it strains credibility.
Maybe Young's long years in the ethically challenged world of the Capitol have finally dulled his sense of propriety. Back in Pinellas County, which is admittedly a nicer place because of Young, we should — and do — expect more of our politicians. Young should leave it to others to decide whether his sons' employers deserve millions in tax dollars.