New Report Critical of Interior’s Griles

Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles has repeatedly had dealings with mining and energy companies represented by his former lobbying firm, which is still sending him payments amounting to some $1 million over four years. While his actions signify an “institutional failure” to avoid the appearance of impropriety, they are not illegal, concluded an 18-month investigation by the Interior Department’s inspector general. His report was reviewed by the Office of Government Ethics, which concluded that in all but two cases, there was no clear-cut violation of ethics rules. Those two cases were forwarded to the attention of Interior Secretary Gale Norton, who dismissed them and pronounced, “This closes the issue.” Not everyone agrees. In a letter to Norton, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) wrote, “The cumulative impact of repeated special access for special interests with preexisting business connections to Mr. Griles cannot help but leave a sour taste in the mouth of anyone who believes in the fairness of government.”