Brennan: Young gets the job done

By Tom Brennan |

Don Young has taken a lot of lumps and his congressional power is somewhat less than it once was, but Young is a first-rate Alaska champion and should be returned to his seat in the U.S. House.

Young has been in the same job for 45 years and done it well. That necessarily means he did political combat many times and sometimes came away bloodied. It goes with the job.

One of the things Don Young has been criticized for is taking campaign contributions from business leaders like Bill Allen, former chairman of Veco, the oilfield service and construction company at the heart of the scandal that tarnished and took down U.S. Senator Ted Stevens.

Allen was a freewheeling guy who once worked as a welder on Cook Inlet oil platforms. He and several friends formed a company to serve as a contractor for oil service jobs and parlayed that into a major force in the Alaska economy.

It was a real Alaska success story, but Allen was too freewheeling and wanted to play the game, sometimes without regard to the accepted rules. He also wanted to be a major player in Alaska politics and became a supporter and, because he was personally likable, a friend of Ted Stevens. Senator Stevens got a raw deal when ambitious prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney General’s office decided to use his association with Allen, among other things, to take him down.

Stevens had amassed so much power in the Senate and could accomplish so much that ambitious prosecutors in the Justice Department saw him as a target, a guy who needed to be run out of Washington. They were successful and the public didn’t really understand what had happened to an Alaska hero until after his death. It was a political tragedy and Ted Stevens fate was undeserved. The effort to unseat him was ultimately successful when Stevens lost his bid for re-election in 2008 to Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, who then lost to former Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan in 2014.

Lately, Don Young has been criticized for taking campaign contributions — and personal gifts from Edison Chouest and people associated with it. Edison Chouest is a Louisiana-based company that holds a major contract with Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. to service and escort oil tankers operating in and out of Prince William Sound. Though his critics are fond of saying that Edison Chouest is a Louisiana company, it is also now part of the Alaska business community and its support for Don Young can be a good thing for Alaska. Young is a successful politician and able to accomplish great things for this state. Like virtually all politicians at that level of the system, Young needs and accepts support both from the business community and average voters able and willing to make political contributions.

The trans-Alaska pipeline has been carrying oil from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez since 1977 and I’m proud to say I was part of the effort to get it approved and built. I worked for ARCO in those days and later became a contractor for most of the major oil companies for about 20 years before I returned to journalism. The Prudhoe Bay field is well past its peak production now but the oil industry is working on what looks like a long and prosperous future for Alaska, a future in which this state will continue to be a major producer of oil and, hopefully, of gas.

Economic developments like these are impossible without competent and capable representation in Washington, where the most important decisions on resource developments are often made. Congressman Don Young has played an important role in getting those much-needed government decisions made and implemented. The lumps he has taken along the way are part of the job. He earned them and can be proud of them.

Don Young has done a good job for Alaska and should be sent back to Washington as long as he is willing to go. He deserves our votes.

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