From Erika Bolstad in Washington D.C. --
A Florida intersection is now an issue in U.S. Rep. Don Young’s reelection campaign.
Diane Benson, a Democrat who’s running against the Alaska Republican, has sent a letter to the House Ethics committee asking its members to look how Young designated $10 million for the study of a proposed Florida highway ramp that would give a windfall to a local real estate developer.
Both the House and Senate voted for the earmark in 2005 as part of a massive highway bill ushered through Young's Transportation committee. At some point, as the bill was being cleaned up to be sent to the president, the $10 million earmark was given a specific designation for what’s known as the Coconut Road interchange.
The project wasn’t sought by local transportation planners, who instead wanted the $10 million to go toward widening Interstate 75.
Young, who traveled all over the country looking at road projects in his role as chairman of the House Transportation committee, has said that the earmark was sought by a local university, which wanted it for a hurricane evacuation route.
In the two weeks before and after the earmark was inserted in the spending bill, Young’s campaign and political action committee collected contributions from the Florida developer, Daniel Aronoff, and Aronoff's lobbyist as well as a number of other Florida business executives. The Florida donations, mainly from real estate interests, totaled more than $40,000.