Griles fought casino opposed by Abramoff's clients

Former deputy interior secretary J. Steven Griles launched a last-minute campaign against a tribal casino apparently at the behest of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, The Washington Post reported on Sunday.

In early 2002, the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians submitted a gaming compact to the Bureau of Indian Affairs for approval. Former assistant secretary Neal McCaleb rejected it, citing an unfair "tax" on the tribe's gaming revenues. Several members of Congress had opposed the compact.

When the tribe made a second try, Griles tried to block the effort. He showed up to a meeting on the tribe's land-into-trust request with a "thick binder containing letters and legal arguments opposing the Jena plan," The Post reported. He allegedly claimed the binder came from a member of Congress but, when pressed, admitted it probably came from Abramoff.

Griles probably never talked to Abramoff, the paper notes, but instead to Italia Federici, the head of the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, a group founded by Interior Secretary Gale Norton. Federici spoke directly to Griles about Abramoff's clients, who donated at least $225,000 to the organization. The Coushatta Tribe opposed the Jena Choctaw's casino plan.

The DOI Inspector General is now probing the contacts between Griles and CREA. Federici is a close associate of Norton's.

The BIA eventually moved forward with the Jena Choctaw's land-into-trust request despite the opposition from Griles, described in The Post as someone "rarely involved in Indian issues."

Get the Story:
Casino Bid Prompted High-Stakes Lobbying (The Washington Post 3/13)

Relevant Links:
Jena Band of Choctaw Indians - http://www.jenachoctaw.org
Coushatta Tribe - http://www.coushattatribela.org
Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy - http://www.crea-online.org/crea

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