James Steven Griles
Griles was a former coal industry lobbyist before being appointed to the number two
spot at the Department of Interior. During his tenure there, from July 2001 to
December 2004, he was allowed to receive payments of nearly $1.1 million as part of
a buyout from his former consulting firm while earning a $150,000 government
Griles also became the highest-ranking official in President George W. Bushís administration linked to the case of corrupt lobbyist and convicted felon Jack Abramoff.
Upon taking the job as deputy secretary under Gail Norton in July 2001, Griles was supposed to recuse himself from all matters involving his former clients. However, Griles continued to associate with former clients in the fossil fuels industries.
He also had at least 32 meetings with Executive branch officials on pending mining and clean air acts that affected several of his former clients, according to the Washington Post.
He met three times with the general counsel of the National Mining Association and intervened in a dispute over a massive coal methane gas extraction project involving energy companies he once represented.
Griles resigned from his post in December 2004 after an 18-month investigation by the departmentís Inspector General. The report did not accuse Griles of violating any laws or federal ethics rules. That would come later, in connection with Abramoff.
Upon leaving office, Griles joined with two other political veterans (former White House national energy policy director Andrew Lundquist and former Congressman George Nethercutt) to form the political lobbying firm of Lundquist, Nethercutt & Griles, LLC.
He resigned from the firm on Jan. 10, 2007 when he learned he would be indicted for giving false testimony two years earlier in the Abramoff case. On March 23, 2007, he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in the Senate investigation of Abramoff.
In 2005 Griles had been called to testify before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in the investigation of Abramoff. Abramoff's private emails indicated that Griles had pledged to use his authority to block a casino which Abramoff was lobbying against. Abramoff also indicated that he was interested in hiring Griles.
Griles told the panel in 2005 that he had little to do with Indian affairs and never tried to help Abramoff's clients. But a former Interior Department lawyer testified that Griles inserted himself in tribal issues, including one that would determine whether a small Louisiana tribe would be able to build a casino.
While at Interior, Griles's then-girlfriend, Italia Federici, introduced him to Abramoff and then acted as a go-between. Federici ran an advocacy group to which Abramoff and his clients donated $500,000.
Griles acknowledged in his plea agreement that he lied when he said that Abramoff didnít have any special access to him at Interior. He also conceded that he misled the Senate committee's investigators when he told them his relationship with Abramoff was "no different" than with other lobbyists. In fact, Griles subsequently admitted Abramoff was the only lobbyist he met with while at Interior.
In another ethically shady move, Griles and his most recent companion, Sue Ellen Wooldridge, who helped him fend off ethics charges when they both worked at Interior, bought a $1 million beach house with the top lobbyist for the oil company ConocoPhillips.
Then Wooldridge signed off on a move to ease up on anti-pollution requirements imposed on ConocoPhillips as part of a settlement. Wooldridge, who had moved on to head the Justice Departmentís environmental division, resigned from that post in January 2007.
As of April 2007, Griles was still awaiting sentencing, with prosecutors recommending no more than 10 months, the minimum they could ask for under sentencing guidelines, with half served in home confinement.
Abramoff is serving nearly six years in prison for bribery and fraud.
- http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/03/AR2007040301576.html ?nav=hcmodule
- http://web.archive.org/web/20021003230746/http://sundaygazettemail.com/news/News/200 2092812/