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Abramoff Scandal
Norton refutes alleged influence of Abramoff


Interior Secretary Gale Norton denied suggestions that disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff exerted influence over tribal decisions at the Interior Department.

"I can't think of any particular influence that his actions had on our decisions," Norton said, The Denver Post reported.

Norton said she made a "conscious effort to de-politicize gaming decisions" and to have career employees rather than political appointees make them. At the same time, she acknowledged that former deputy secretary J. Steven Griles -- a political appointee -- "had the option of participating in any decision he wanted" although she claims he didn't.

Despite Norton's comments, all gaming decisions are made by the Bureau of Indian Affairs' central office in Washington, D.C,, where the political appointees work. Her former counselor, Michael Rossetti, participated in the process as a political appointee.

Most gaming decisions are signed by the assistant secretary of the BIA or the principal deputy assistant secretary, both of whom are political employees. Some of them, however, are made by George Skibine, a career employee who heads the Office of Indian Gaming Management.

In addition to talking about Abramoff, Norton distanced herself from Italia Federici, a former associate who runs Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, a group that Norton founded. "I haven't had any knowledge of what happens within her organization during the time I've been secretary of the interior," The Post reported.

Norton attended a private dinner arranged by CREA, documents released by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee show. But Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), the committee chairman, said nothing indicates that Norton is directly involved in the Abramoff scandal.

Get the Story:
Norton: Lobbyist carried no sway (The Denver Post 12/15)

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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