Don Young claims every major bill he likes is 'my bill,' even when it is not

Rep. Don Young, 85, pointed to himself with his right arm and shouted, ‘Uno, Uno, Uno” into the microphone.

This is what you shout when you play your next-to-last card in the child’s game of “Uno.”

But Young was not joking, he was boasting. Perhaps he thinks “uno” means “mine,” instead of “one.”

This confusing episode happened at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention in Anchorage last month.

After challenger Alyse Galvin had just said she supported the continuation of the so-called 8(a) contracts for Native corporations, Young claimed credit for starting the program under which Alaska Native corporations get special bidding preferences on government contracts. The name 8(a) comes from the section of the law authorizing the program.

In Young’s revisionist history, the role of the late Sen. Ted Stevens is missing from the 8(a) story.

“8(a). Where do you think that bill came from? Uno. Uno. Uno,” he said, adding, “I can just about guarantee you re-elect me and we’ll have 8(a) contracts from now until I don’t run anymore.”

Then Young went into what has become a familiar pattern, boasting that all the major Alaska bills he likes in the past 45 years should be credited to him.

“The Magnuson Act, that was my bill,” he said at the convention.

“The trans-Alaskan pipeline, that was my bill. The 8(a) contract was my bill. The, what we call Community Development Quotas, was my bill,” he said.

A few minutes later he said the Indian Child Welfare Act was “my bill, with Mo Udall.”

In fact, Young was not a sponsor or a co-sponsor 40 years ago of the Indian Child Welfare Act that he claims as “my bill.” It was sponsored by Rep. Mo Udall and 15 other Democrats.

In an interview with UAF researchers about the career of Sen. Ted Stevens, Young griped in 2009 about not getting enough credit on the trans-Alaska pipeline and the Magnuson Act that set fisheries conservation policy.

“On big legislation, for instance, and he used to take credit for this --twice he's done this, and we're dear friends, I let him get away from it, with it,” Young said of Stevens about the pipeline act in 1973.

Stevens and Sen. Mike Gravel had been in Congress for five years, while Young had been in the House for four months when the key pipeline vote took place.

According to Young’s version of events, Gravel wanted to claim all the credit for the pipeline and pushed through an ill-advised Senate amendment on July 17, 1973 that limited court challenges to a pipeline. Had the Gravel amendment failed, the pipeline would have been stalled, according to Young.

But Vice President Spiro Agnew cast the tie-breaking vote on the amendment and the final bill sailed through Congress that fall. With the passage of time, Young has inflated his role in the passage of the pipeline act and diminished that of others.

In that same UAF interview, Young repeated his long-standing complaint about the name of he Magnuson Act.

“And I'll take full credit for that. It was named the Stevens and Magnuson Act because Stevens and Magnuson were big buddies,” he said.

In 1980, as Sen. Warren Magnuson, a Washington Democrat, was ending his 36-year career in the Senate, Stevens resurrected an effort to name the 1976 law for Magnuson.

"This past Wednesday, believing it only fitting that on the eve of Sen. Magnuson's retirement, this act should be named after its sponsor and pioneer, I offered an amendment to a salmon bill which renamed the act the 'Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976.' The amendment and the bill passed without objection. The fishermen of this country and my home State of Alaska owe Sen. Magnuson a debt of gratitude," Stevens said on Dec. 13, 1980.

He said it was the most important fishing legislation in the nation's history. In 1986, Stevens, Sen. Frank Murkowski and 20 other senators backed a Senate resolution calling Magnuson the "nation's preeminent leader" in getting the bill passed.

A decade later, a 1997 amendment stuck into a giant omnibus appropriations bill changed the name again.

"The conference agreement includes a new provision, not in either the House or Senate-reported bills, renaming the 'Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act' as the 'Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act,'" a summary published in the Congressional Record said.

Young has made it a habit to exaggerate his record and downplay the actions of others, most of whom are gone from the scene.

To be accurate, Young should say that he supported these and other measures along with many other members of Congress. He cares too much about who gets the credit.

Dermot Cole3 Comments