Young yanks support from raided firm

Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.), the top Republican on the defense appropriations subcommittee, yanked his support for a $4 million funding request for a local defense contractor after the federal agents raided its offices Wednesday.

Young was attempting to distance himself from Conax Florida Corp., a St. Petersburg, Fla.-based contractor that supplies equipment for the military and NASA. Young had secured $28.5 million in federal “earmarks” for the company since 2005.

Young had requested $4 million for a “belt-tensioning” restraint system for Air Force aircraft platforms. His spokesman told the St. Petersburg Times that he decided to withdraw his support for the earmark because of the raid. It’s unclear what federal agents are investigating or whether it’s linked to another Florida-based corruption case involving defense contractors with ties to Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) receiving portions of an $8 million earmark for work that was never done and that the contract did not request.

Richard Ianieri, a former executive for Coherent Systems, pleaded guilty Wednesday to accepting $200,000 in kickbacks from a subcontractor identified only as “K” in court documents. Ianieri and Coherent have strong ties to Kuchera Defense Systems, whose offices were raided by the FBI earlier this year. Murtha had steered earmarks to both companies.

The defense-spending panel met Thursday morning to hammer out the details of the fiscal year 2010 spending bill.

The Defense Criminal Investigative Service executed the search warrant with the assistance of several other agencies, including: The Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the offices of inspector general with NASA and the Department of Transportation.

Several Conax employees have donated a total of more than $6,000 to Young’s campaign from 2006 to 2008. Young has said there is no relationship between the earmarks he requested and the campaign contributions.