Alaskan Gets Campaign Cash; Florida Road Gets U.S. Funds
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
Published: June 7, 2007
It is no secret that campaign contributions sometimes lead to lucrative official favors. Rarely, though, are the tradeoffs quite as obvious as in the twisted case of Coconut Road.
The road, a stretch of pavement near Fort Myers, Fla., that touches five golf clubs on its way to the Gulf of Mexico, is the target of a $10 million earmark that appeared mysteriously in a 2006 transportation bill written by Representative Don Young, Republican of Alaska.
Mr. Young, who last year steered more than $200 million to a so-called bridge to nowhere reaching 80 people on Gravina Island, Alaska, has no constituents in Florida.
The Republican congressman whose district does include Coconut Road says he did not seek the money. County authorities have twice voted not to use it, until Mr. Young and the district congressman wrote letters warning that a refusal could jeopardize future federal money for the county.
The Coconut Road money is a boon, however, to Daniel J. Aronoff, a real estate developer who helped raise $40,000 for Mr. Young at the nearby Hyatt Coconut Point hotel days before he introduced the measure.
Mr. Aronoff owns as much as 4,000 acres along Coconut Road. The $10 million in federal money would pay for the first steps to connect the road to Interstate 75, multiplying the value of Mr. Aronoff's land.
There must be something in the water in Alaska. Is there a Senator or Representative left in that northernmost state who is not suspect of indictment? The amusing point to me is always how cheaply these guys can be bought. One expects elected officials to be doing something other than whoring for campaign contributions, but that expectation is probably no longer realistic. Don Young. Remember the name.