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Young, Other House Members Disclose Legal Bills

Rep. Don Young doled out more than $32,000 from his campaign coffers to pay legal bills in recent weeks in what may have been his final payments to two law firms, according to campaign finance reports.

The Alaska Republican reported payments of more than $21,000 in early November to Michael Martin, an attorney with the Washington state law firm Siderius Lonergan & Martin, and nearly $11,000 in late October to the law firm Tobin, O’Connor, Ewing, & Richard, which is based in Washington, D.C.

Both payments were described as “legal fees/zero balance” in documents filed with the Federal Election Commission. Young’s office could not immediately confirm whether that notation indicated the accounts had been paid in full.

Young announced in August that the Justice Department determined it would not prosecute him in a federal corruption investigation that targeted his home state. He has paid more than $1.4 million in legal fees since 2007 from his re-election campaign.

House lawmakers who have attracted the attention of the Office of Congressional Ethics also paid legal bills in recent weeks, according to campaign finance reports that detail a five-week period ending in mid-November.

Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) reported a November payment of nearly $50,000 to the global law firm Bryan Cave, and Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) reported an October payment of more than $17,000 to Brand Law Group, which is based in Washington, D.C.

The OCE, which reviews potential rules violations and refers investigations to the House ethics committee, in August recommended probes into Campbell, Crowley and Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) regarding their fundraising efforts in advance of the 2009 financial reform vote. The ethics panel has not announced whether it will pursue the allegations.

Price reported payments totaling more than $17,000 to the firm Patton Boggs in the current cycle, but he did not report any new legal bills in his latest filing.

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) also covered legal bills from his campaign account, spending more than $54,000 on attorneys’ fees since mid-October. His campaign has spent nearly $245,000 on legal bills in the 2009-10 cycle. Meeks’ most recently report included two payments totaling $45,000 to the New York office of the firm Dorsey & Whitney.

The New York Daily News reported this year that Meeks drew FBI scrutiny over a $40,000 personal loan from businessman Ed Ahmad. Meeks included the personal loan in his financial disclosure form in July.

The ethics watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington requested that the OCE investigate whether the loan was made in violation of House rules. The OCE does not confirm whether it is reviewing allegations.

Meeks’ office also received a subpoena in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York this year. His office declined in March to detail the materials being sought, but in a notification letter to the House, he indicated the subpoena requested documents from the district office and did not indicate any request for documents or depositions from Meeks himself.

It is not known whether that subpoena is tied to a federal investigation of a nonprofit organization founded by Meeks and a New York state lawmaker, which was reported by the New York Post in February.

At that time, the Post reported the Justice Department was examining the New Direction Local Development Corp. and its New Yorkers Organized to Assist Hurricane Families project over allegations about the whereabouts of $31,000 in funds raised for Hurricane Katrina victims.

Meeks has previously denied day-to-day involvement in the charity, stating to media outlets that he did not play an operational role in that group.

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