Norton resigns (as ethically challenged), where in the West will Bush go?
Norton's tenure was also marked by repeated ethical controversies. 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.
Abramoff also funneled more than $500,000 to one of Norton's former political aides, Italia Federici, to gain access to her department, which makes key decisions about which tribes can open casinos. Norton said she had no qualms about Federici's activities.
Federici, president of the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, quickly released a statement praising Norton.
“The environmental benefits of her actions on behalf of Cooperative Conservation will be reaped for years to come,” Federici said in the statement.
Norton's BLM director Kathleen Clarke remained after apparently violating her recusals from a Utah land-swap that investigators said would have shortchanged the federal government. Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said the deal involved a "jaw-dropping ... apparent cover-up" within Norton's department.
She also suffered bad publicity when the head of the National Park Service police was fired after talking to a reporter and congressional staff about budget shortfalls.
Norton was also the first Bush cabinet official to be held in contempt, though the ruling regarding Indian trust issues was later overruled by an appeals court.
The Indian trust case metastasized from an obscure bookkeeping mess to a drain on Norton's entire department. She once said the issue occupied her top staff more than any other issue.
In the National Journal Political Insider's Poll last year, she was voted the second-most underrated Bush cabinet secretary by Republican operatives who credited her with pursuing Bush's pro-development agenda with a minimum of bad publicity.
With Gale Norton resigning this morning, there is an opening in the most Western of cabinet positions. Among Democrats, this is the position once held by such Coyote Dems as Bruce Babbitt and Cecil Andrus. The Interior Department is the third most senior domestic cabinet secretary and because of the amount of federal land in the West, the most influential out here.
With plans to sell of more federal land, expand oil and gas and recent aborted congressional plans to make mining easier -- all efforts to inhibit local control and expand corporate control of Western lands -- who do you think Bush will nominate?
Who is your perfect Interior Secretary?
Emmett O'Connell | March 10, 2006 | Comment on This Post (12 so far)
Your Personal Note:
Maybe I should add mine: Daniel Kemmis.
Posted by: Emmett O'Connell | Mar 10, 2006 12:04:58 PM
I'll take Robert Redford as SecInt.
Posted by: Nate | Mar 11, 2006 5:20:57 PM
Posted by: paul in OR | Mar 12, 2006 5:11:18 PM
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