Mr. Pork: Don Young (R-Alaska)
Powerful enough to earn the moniker "Alaska's Third Senator," this seventeen-term congressman and former tugboat captain knows how to haul home the bacon. Thanks in no small part to his efforts, Alaskans receive $1.87 in federal funds for every dollar they contribute in taxes. Last year, Young leveraged his post as chairman of the House Transportation Committee to stuff the highway bill – "like a turkey," in his own words – with nearly $1 billion in pork-barrel projects for his home state.
More than $400 million of the money was earmarked for two separate "bridges to nowhere." One, nearly as long as the Golden Gate, would serve an island community of only fifty people. The second, a monument to waste known as "Don Young's Way," would connect Anchorage to a patch of scarcely habitable marshland.
"These two bridges are the most egregious example of government waste we've ever seen," says Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste. Even the conservative Heritage Foundation called one of Young's bridges a "national embarrassment." But the congressman refused to scrap the projects. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when Sen. John McCain proposed that Young redirect his prized pork money to help rebuild New Orleans, Young accused his detractors of "ignorance and stupidity." The victims of Katrina, he suggested, "can kiss my ear!"
Such coarseness is a Young hallmark. He once called environmentalists a "self-centered bunch of waffle-stomping, Harvard-graduating, intellectual idiots" who "are not Americans, never have been Americans, never will be Americans." And during a debate on the right of native Alaskans to sell the sex organs of endangered animals as aphrodisiacs, Young whipped out the eighteen-inch penis bone of a walrus and brandished it like a sword on the House floor.
As for his pork projects, Young – who tried his hand at gold mining in Alaska before realizing that the real riches lay in Congress – apparently feels no shame. When someone suggested that Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska had outdone him in bringing home federal dollars, Young just laughed. "If he's the chief porker," the congressman said, "I'm upset."
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