The Denver Post, Associated Press, and other news services are reporting that Gale Norton is stepping down after five years at the helm of the Department of the Interior.

Norton’s taking her leave to “catch my breath, then set my sights on new goals to achieve in the private sector,” according her letter to President Bush. While primly notes that her “name came up” in connection with the Jack Abramoff inquiry, ThinkProgress is more assertive. Under the headline “Another Abramoff Casualty?” TP notes that Norton received $50,000 from the defrocked lobbyist, who also channeled half a million dollars to her former aide Italia Federici to gain access to Norton and another Interior top official.

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Whatever the reason or not-reason, Norton is leaving the Bush cabinet without having achieved her goal of opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.

Update [2006-3-10 12:7:8 by Emily Gertz]: The folks at ThinkProgress elided the specifics slightly in the post I linked to above (although they’re clearer about them elsewhere on the site). According to, this $50K from the Meskwakis Tribe of Iowa actually went to a Norton-founded group, the greenwashy Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy … as did many thousands more from other tribes that employed Abramoff.

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CREA’s president? Italia Federici.