Saturday, March 11, 2006

Norton Resigns Interior - Should Blunt Be Worried?

Gale Norton, an original member of the Bush 2001 cabinet, announced her resignation Friday. Norton dutifully carried out administration policy - facilitating drilling permits, pushing sale of public lands, privatization of national parks and opening up protected areas for oil exploration - basically didn't make waves with the so-called conservative power base in Washington.

Norton also towed the line when acquiescing to GOP-favored influence peddlers like Jack Abramoff and his buddies in Congress (Blunt signed onto three letters on behalf of Abramoff) by denying reservation permits to certain Indian tribes that would have competed with Abramoff casino clients.

Here's a brief timeline from a past OA post concerning Blunt and his letters to Norton:
  • September 2000 - Blunt requests GAO study on tribal recognition issues and simultaneously seeks a six month moratorium on further tribal recognition - protecting existing casinos from further competition.
  • February 2002 - GAO report on tribal recognition issued.
  • March 2002 - Blunt writes letter to Department of Interior citing the GAO report and expressed specific concerns about the Jenna Band of Choctaws and their status in Louisiana. The Jenna Band would have been competition for Abramoff's client with tribal recognition approval.
  • March 2003 - Abramoff contributes to ROYB fund.
  • May 2003 - Blunt sends another letter to Department of Interior Secretary Gale Norton regarding his concerns about Indian gaming and specifically the Jenna Band in Louisiana.
Norton told the Washington Post that her resignation had nothing to do with the ongoing federal investigation of Abramoff, but even from our vantage point here in the hills, we can see that this is no coincidence. Like one of the privileged class on a doomed luxury liner, Norton is grabbing an early lifeboat.

Of course, the mainstream media can't seem to find an audience for Abramoff these days, despite the fact that he's beginning to lash out at all his amnesiac pals in government.

The AP merely notes that "Norton leaves at a time when a major lobbying scandal involving Indian gaming licenses that required her consent looms over her agency, but there has been no indication of possible wrongdoing on her part."

Norton is smart to get out before results from the Abramoff investigation come to full bloom. I'm wondering if Roy has any fears here? I see that Blunt is drafting a bill regarding the Dubai fiasco that would require congressional oversight as the administration reviews foreign acquisitions, so at least he's come out of his room after the leadership spanking.


RSmith said...

I'll respond to my own post by saying that the upcoming Congressional elections will probably have a lot to do with how much of this story comes to light. If the Dems win a majority in House or Senate, then a special prosecutor will have a hayday with Abramoff and his congressional pals (Blunt, DeLay and many others). I don't think this will go anywhere without a special prosecutor - somehow, I just don't see Attorney General Gonzalez getting too worked up about it.

Citizenkan said...

Yes, so much for lobbying reform. The Dubai deal caused Americans to blink....again.

I do take comfort in the fact that Roy lost the popular vote among his peers. Abigail must be mortified!

RSmith said...

Lobbying reform has turned out to be a bad joke. Did you see Boehner's flight log? The guy is bought and sold - he's, dare I say, worst than Blunt.

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