By Yaël Ossowski | Florida Watchdog
ST PETERSBURG — Imagine a congressman who has been in Washington, D.C,. long enough to witness the drawing down of the Vietnam War, the shake-up of Watergate, the perilous Iran hostage situation, and the fall of the Berlin Wall — not to mention every significant political event of the 1990s and 2000s.
Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Young, of Florida’s 10th district, has been in the House of Representatives for 42 consecutive years, making him the longest-serving GOP member of the House.
And now, as a veteran of 20 congressional elections, he’s ready to compete for yet another term in the 2012 fall election. This time, though, because of redistricting, Young is seeking election in the newly created 13th Congressional District.
Like many of his veteran House colleagues, the congressman from Indian Shores has become quite familiar with the legislative process, finding a comfortable seat at the Committee on Appropriations, responsible for allocating the trillions of dollars the federal government spends throughout the country.
He was chairman of the committee from 1999-2005, and now chairs the Defense Subcommittee, where he is the last fiscal authority for allocating billions in defense funds to builders of jets, tanks, bombs, and communication gear, a fact well known by the key players of defense companies.
Reports compiled by the Federal Election Commission and the Center for Responsive Politics show Young has received the majority of his campaign contributions from companies directly involved in defense and military inventory — that also have benefited directly from Young’s directed earmark, or “pork-barrel,” spending.
In fiscal year 2010, Young sponsored or co-sponsored more than $128.8 million in earmarks for many companies that directly contributed to his re-election campaign, including two of which currently employ his own sons.
The largest defense earmark specifically doled out by Young in 2010 was to aerospace and defense gaint Raytheon, totalling $4 million for “cooperative engagement capability,” according to the finalized budget. The company’s PAC donated $10,000 to Young’s re-election in 2010.
Having received $88,550 from DRS Technologies throughout his career, Young earmarked more than $11 million for the company in the past four years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The defense contractor fabricates many parts for the nation’s fleet of tanks, according to its website.
Young’s office declined to comment about the earmarks when contacted by Florida Watchdog.
Of the GOP congressman’s top 15 contributors, 11 are makers of military gear that have given a total of $899,575 since 1989.
These include the political action committees and employees of Lockheed Martin, SAIC Inc., Honeywell International, Rayethon Co., DRS Technologies , General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, Boeing Co., AM General and Textron Inc.
Perhaps the most public case of earmarked funding through Young’s office surfaced in 2008, when it was reported that he directed millions of dollars to companies that employed his children, including Science Applications International Corp. in St. Petersburg, which employed his son, Patrick, and the National Forensic Science Technology Center in Largo, which employed another of his sons, Billy.
In an article in the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times) in 2008, Young admitted to directing $44.6 million to SAIC during the course of four years and $28.6 million to the forensic center in Largo, but denied that those earmarks directly influence the hiring of either of his sons.
“I had nothing to do with Pat going to work with SAIC, and I had nothing to do with Billy getting his job,” Young told the Times.
In 2006, in response to an argument of what constituted pork-barrel spending on the House floor, Young said that he no longer used the word “earmarks,” opting instead for the more neutral “projects initiated by a member,” according to Roll Call magazine.
Ayres and Vance did not return calls to Florida Watchdog seeking comment.
The only Democrat who has filed in the race is lawyer Jessica Ehrlich of St. Petersburg.
“Bill Young has voted against the very things that help create better private-sector jobs like invest in job training, hi-tech research and development and education while voting for actual handouts to the special interests, big oil and millionaires and billionaires,” Ehrlich told Florida Watchdog.
“We need leaders who will focus on attracting good jobs and growing our economy not someone who demeans hard working families or is focused on giving handouts to his special interest friends.”