Ethics: Rep. Young didn’t break rules

The House Ethics Committee on Tuesday said Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) did not violate any ethics rules, overturning a recommendation by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE).

“I am pleased that the Ethics Committee confirmed what I have maintained all along—I did nothing to violate House rules,” Young said in a statement released after the decision.

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The outside ethics office had concluded that Young violated rules by accepting 12 contributions of $5,000 from separate companies that were all owned by one individual, his wife or his five children. The contributions were made to the Don Young Legal Expense Fund.

But the congressional panel determined Young had acted within the rules when he accepted the contributions from separate companies owned by “Gary Chouest, his wife, and his five children.” It determined the various contributions did not represent a single donation made above the contribution limit.

At the same time, the committee said the identical ownership of the companies “challenges the principles of the contributions limits” established in 1996 regulations.

It said the wording of those regulations would be revised to clarify the issue. The new wording takes effect Jan. 1, 2012 and applies to legal expense funds currently in existence as well as ones in the future.

“To that end, the committee has simultaneously adopted revised LEF Regulations that, among other changes and clarifications, attributes contributions by certain types of entities, such as LLCs, to the owners of those entities,” the Ethics Committee announcement said.

The changes clarify legal expense fund (LEF) rules for certain types of limited liability companies. 

The Ethics Committee review and decision comes after Young was investigated by the Department of Justice for allegedly accepting money from the oil industry in exchange for political favors. Young has maintained his innocence in that investigation.