We noted earlier today that the new Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, yesterday said he wanted to re-open investigations into ethical lapses at the department under Bush. And he specifically mentioned, among other scandals, the Steven Griles affair, in which the department’s number two official was convicted in connection to his ties to super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, becoming the highest-ranking administration official sentenced in the sprawling Abramoff probe.
So it’s worth doing a quick refresher on what happened there.
In a nutshell, as we put it in 2007 before Griles was sentenced, he served for years as Abramoff’s man at Interior. He provided the lobbyist with information that was useful to his tribal clients — in return getting favors not for himself, but for his stable of girlfriends.
Abramoff gave $500,000 to a conservative group run by one of them, Italia Federici, a former aide to Interior Secretary Gail Norton. It was through Federici that Abramoff first gained access to Griles. Abramoff also interviewed two other Griles gal-pals for possible jobs. And Griles lied about all this to a Senate committee.
In 2007, Griles pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and was sentenced to 10 months in prison.
Given the evidence against Griles and Federici, there was speculation that former Norton, who was cozy throughout her career with mining, logging and drilling interests, might also be of interest to investigators. (Abramoff once described Federici’s group as “my access to Norton”). So if the Griles affair is indeed re-investigated, it’ll certainly be worth watching where things lead.
We’ve put in a call to the department to get more specifics on what exactly Salazar might want to look at, and will let you know what we find out…