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Florida Congressman’s Death Opens Up Doors For Veteran Defense Earmarkers

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ)
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ)

Last month, Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young (R-FL) died midway through his 22nd term in Congress. Both his apparent successor as chairman of the powerful House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and his widow’s choice to fill his vacant 13th District House seat in an upcoming special election both have a record of delivering earmarks for powerful defense contractors.

The defense appropriations subcommittee, once chaired by the late Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) came under fire in 2009 for earmarking millions of dollars to contractors represented by their former staffers-turned-lobbyists. Murtha once defended the practice, saying, “If I’m corrupt, it’s because I take care of my district.” In 2010, House Republicans instituted a moratorium on earmarks — but prior to that time, Young earned a reputation as “Florida’s earmark king,” reportedly even helping then-Salt Lake City Olympics CEO Mitt Romney get one in 2002.

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) will reportedly replace Young as chairman of the defense appropriations panel. Like Young, Frelinghuysen received more than $100 million in earmarks in the 2008, 2009, and 2010 fiscal years, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense. The Center for Public Integrity reported in 2009 that Frelinghuysen helped the New Jersey-based Frontier Performance Polymers Corp. received a $1.5 million earmark for research into “lightweight multi-functional material technology” — lighter packaging for military gear. Donna Mullins, a former Frelinghuysen aide, represented Frontier Performance Polymers as a lobbyist for Winning Strategies Washington. Mullins and Winning Strategies’ PAC each contributed thousands of dollars to Frelinghuysen’s re-election campaigns.

With Beverly Young behind him “200 percent,” her late husband’s former general counsel David Jolly seems the likely Republican candidate for his open seat in the upcoming special election. Jolly has been a registered lobbyist for an array of defense contractors including Alakai Defense Systems, DRS Technologies, Eclipse Energy Systems, and Level 3 Communications.

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Since 2007, Jolly has represented Mikros Systems Corporation, a defense contractor with production facilities in Florida. In 2009, Jolly reported that he lobbied the U.S. House on the Department of Defense appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2010. That legislation included a $1 million earmark for an “Adaptive Diagnostic Electronic Portable Test set” — requested by his former boss Rep. Young and intended to go to Mikros Systems. While no earmarks have been permitted in the past three years, Mikros continues to receive millions in federal contracts from the Department of Defense thanks to money appropriated by Young’s panel.

It has been often observed that Congress has three political parties — Democrats, Republicans and appropriators. While the Republican party’s platform calls for significantly less federal spending, based on their records, both Frelinghuysen and Jolly might well prove to be appropriators first.