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Politics
White House told DOI to pay attention to Abramoff


The White House told Interior Department political appointees that they "had to pay attention" to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, former Bureau of Indian Affairs official Wayne Smith says.

Up until he was fired, Smith handled gaming and land-into-trust issues as the BIA's second-in-command. He tells The Denver Post that the White House was concerned about Abramoff's connections to Republican and Christian activists like Ralph Reed and Focus on the Family leader James Dobson.

Doug Domenech, the White House's liaison to DOI, "said we had to pay attention to Abramoff, because otherwise the religious right and Reed are going to come up and bite us, and our whole base will go crazy," Smith told the paper. He said Domenech warned, "They will light up our phones, shut down our phone lines."

Smith said Italia Federeci, an associate of Norton's who runs a group called Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, called Domenech to relay Abramoff's messages. "Doug would come down and say, 'Italia called and Jack wants this,"' Smith said. "That's how it all happened internally."

Federeci's contacts with Norton's top aides are the subject of an Inspector General investigation. She denies lobbying on behalf of Abramoff even though she accepted at least $250,000 from Abramoff's wealthy clients and tried to set up meetings with Norton.

On one occasion, she tried to get Norton to meet with Lovelin Poncho, the former chairman of the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana. The tribe then gave CREA a $50,000 check, although the meeting never happened.

Later, she set up a dinner at a home of a CREA supporter in Washington, D.C. Poncho finally got to meet Norton there. A year later, the tribe donated $100,000 more to CREA three days before Norton decided on a rival tribe's casino compact.

Federeci tells The Denver Rocky Mountain News that none of the activities had anything to do with gaming. "That connection only exists in the minds of our critics," she said in an interview.

Get the Story:
Lobbyists under scrutiny (The Denver Post 6/19)
Colo. link in lobby probe (The Denver Rocky Mountain 6/18)

Relevant Documents:
CREA Memo to Interior (February 21, 2002)

Relevant Links:
Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy - http://www.crea-online.org/crea

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