This evening, the Washington Post has an article with the headline "GOP Environmentalist Linked to Abramoff to Plead Guilty." The headline immediately caught my interest because, to my knowledge, Jack Abramoff was not particularly interested in environmental issues. In fact, he worked to use his connections to get special favors for his corporate clients, often on public lands and Indian reservations. The person in question is one Italia Federici.
The Post article gave reasons to be suspicious:
Federici, 37, is president of a nonprofit group founded in 1997 by Gale Norton -- before she became interior secretary -- and conservative anti-tax activist Grover Norquist. Abramoff and his Indian tribal clients donated $500,000 to Federici's group between 2001 and 2003 in an effort to influence J. Steven Griles, the Interior Department's deputy secretary at the time, with whom Federici was romantically involved....The presence of Grover Norquist is reason enough to doubt the organization's legitimacy, since most environmental problems require some form of government-coordinated solution - something inimical to Norquist. Gale Norton's involvement is not encouraging, given her record on environmental issues while she was in the administration. The fact that the organization was used for influence-peddling within the Interior Department is also grounds for suspicion.
Documents filed yesterday also said that Federici and the vice president of her group, the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, "relied primarily on cash, including ATM transactions, to handle the finances of CREA." Instead of taking salaries, the two "obtained funds from CREA by directly withdrawing cash from CREA's bank account through ATM and teller transactions."
Let's take a look at some of this group's statements:
- Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
- Removing enforcement provisions from the Endangered Species Act
- Praising Bush's environmental record
- Denouncing "eco-extremists" for connecting severe hurricanes to climate change
- Attacking other environmental groups with industry-based talking points