Wednesday, April 4, 2007
When former Deputy Interior Secretary Steven Griles entered a guilty plea to making a false statement to a Senate Committee, he admitted he lied when he testified that his relationship with former superlobbyist Jack Abramoff was nothing special. In fact, Griles' then-girlfriend, Italia Federici, introduced Abramoff to him, giving Abramoff a special "in" with Griles. It turns out that another target of the investigation is Federici, who co-founded the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy (CREA) in 1997 with Gail Norton, the former Interior Secretary appointed in 2001 who was Griles' boss. A target letter sent to Federici by the Tax Division at the Department of Justice in January 2007, available below, states that "[t]he investigation is focused on the alleged illegal manner in which you operated [CREA]." Among the potential crimes being investigated are conspiracy, tax evasion, making false statement to a Senate Committee, and obstruction of an official proceeding.
Interestingly, one reason identified for sending the target letter is to afford Federici the opportunity to obtain court-appointed counsel, which she has done. The letter is addressed to her care of the Federal Defender's Office in Washington, D.C., and a Legal Times story (here) notes that her attorney is from that office, due to financial problems. Abramoff and his clients made fairly significant donations to CREA, and his cooperation may be the basis for charges against Federici. (ph)