Interior Secretary Gale Norton resigned today, the Associated Press has confirmed. Norton, photographed at left with fallen conservative lobbyist Jack Abramoff, was fingered in deals with Native American tribes that Abramoff represented. The photograph at left was released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
Abramoff's tribal clients donated $50,000 to a conservative environmental group founded by Norton, hoping to win face time with the Secretary. They eventually did.
Former DeLay deputy chief of staff Tony Rudy helped Abramoff arrange a meeting with Norton, and within months, the lobbyist's clients were making huge contributions to the environmental group Norton started, the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy.
“Do you think you could call that friend and set up a meeting?” then-DeLay staffer Tony Rudy asked fellow House aide Thomas Pyle in a Dec. 29, 2000, e-mail obtained by the Associated Press titled “Gale Norton-Interior Secretary.” President Bush had nominated Norton to his cabinet the day before.
"Rudy wrote Abramoff that same day promising he had “good news” about securing a meeting with Norton, forwarding information about the environmental group Norton had founded, according to e-mails obtained by investigators and reviewed by The Associated Press. Rudy’s message to Abramoff was sent from Congress’ official e-mail system.
"Within months, Abramoff clients donated heavily to the Norton-founded group and to DeLay’s personal charity. The Coushatta Indian tribe, for instance, wrote checks in March 2001 for $50,000 to the Norton group and $20,000 to the DeLay Foundation, tribal records show.
"The lobbyist and the Coushattas eventually won face-to-face time with the secretary during a Sept. 24, 2001, dinner sponsored by the group she had founded.
"Abramoff’s clients were trying to stop a rival Indian tribe from winning Interior Department approval to build a casino."