Abramoff Brings Down Another Official

J. Stephen Griles is now in the Justice Department's cross-hairs.

Federal prosecutors have notified a former deputy secretary of the interior, J. Steven Griles, that he is a target in the public corruption investigation of Jack Abramoff's lobbying activities, sources knowledgeable about the probe said.

The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that among the possible criminal charges being investigated is whether Griles made false statements to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in 2005 about job discussions Abramoff initiated while Griles was deputy secretary. Griles's attorneys did not return calls seeking comment yesterday.

When Griles folds, will he implicate former Interior Secretary Gale Norton?

The investigation has examined donations made by Abramoff's Indian tribal clients to an environmental advocacy group run by Italia Federici, who was involved with Griles socially, the sources said. Also under scrutiny are donations made to Federici's group by energy and mining companies, the sources said.

There's more:

Federici's group was co-founded by Gale A. Norton before she joined the Bush administration as interior secretary. In one e-mail, Abramoff told a colleague that Federici's group was "our access to Norton."

The investigation has resulted in the resignation of a senior Justice Department official:

With the prospect of Griles's indictment, a senior Justice Department official -- who Interior employees said has been dating Griles -- tendered her resignation this week.

Sue Ellen Wooldridge, assistant attorney general for environment and natural resources for the past year, submitted a letter of resignation Monday saying that she intends to return to the private sector, a Justice Department official said yesterday.

....Wooldridge served as Interior Department solicitor and as deputy chief of staff to then-Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton before moving to Justice in November 2005.

Another former Interior Department employee was sentenced yesterday:

Yesterday, another former Interior Department employee was sentenced to two years' probation and fined $1,000 for failing to report gifts that he received from Abramoff. Roger G. Stillwell accepted hundreds of dollars worth of football and concert tickets from Abramoff, who at the time was lobbying for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Stillwell worked in the Interior Department's Insular Affairs Office, which handles issues involving the island government.

Gale Norton, formerly Colorado Attorney General, resigned in early 2006.

Abramoff's tribal clients donated $50,000 to a conservative environmental group founded by Norton, hoping to win face time with the Secretary. They eventually did.

Former DeLay deputy chief of staff Tony Rudy helped Abramoff arrange a meeting with Norton, and within months, the lobbyist's clients were making huge contributions to the environmental group Norton started, the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy.

But this may be the kicker:

Norton cleared her top deputy, former lobbyist J. Steven Griles, after her inspector general said his conduct showed that the department's ethics system was "a train wreck waiting to happen." Griles is now under investigation for allegations that he did the bidding of convicted Indian casino lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Norton is still supporting him.

Why did Norton retire so abruptly?

A source for Norton says her resignation is not tied to Abramoff, but the result of her "wanting to go home." Home is Colorado, where Norton was the Attorney General.

Where is Norton now? She's General Counsel for Shell Oil.

According to company spokeswoman Destin Singleton, Norton will be general counsel for Shell Exploration and Production, Unconventional Resources. That means she will provide legal services for the division that is developing and testing proprietary technology that the company hopes can improve oil recovery from sources, such as oil shale and extra heavy oils.

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  • Display: Sort:
    are they trying to break (none / 0) (#1)
    by cpinva on Wed Jan 10, 2007 at 09:39:22 AM EST
    the reagan administration's record?

    easy answers to simple questions (h/t Atrios) (none / 0) (#2)
    by smiley on Wed Jan 10, 2007 at 11:03:20 AM EST
    When Griles folds, will he implicate former Interior Secretary Gale Norton?

    Yes, becuase there is no honor among thieves.  

    "Let us pray..." (none / 0) (#3)
    by Bill Arnett on Wed Jan 10, 2007 at 01:55:19 PM EST

    snappy answers to easy questions (none / 0) (#4)
    by scribe on Wed Jan 10, 2007 at 03:01:21 PM EST
    When Griles folds, will he implicate former Interior Secretary Gale Norton?

    One can only hope...