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HOME arrow - Privatization arrow Gale Force - The BushWoman
Gale Force - The BushWoman
Written by Scott Silver   
Sunday, 04 April 2004

Quoted from appended article:

Her year-long fellowship at Hoover was followed by another at the Political Economy Research Center (PERC) in Bozeman, Mont., an outfit whose website displays the motto "Free Market Solutions to Environmental Problems." PERC advocates selling off national parks to private firms (Disney, perhaps?) and publishes a "parent's guide to teaching children about the environment that is intended to "counter the environmental movement's indoctrination of the nation's youth in public schools." One of PERC's major funders is David Koch.

If you wish to learn more about Interior Secretary Gale Norton, do read on.

Please note, this article appears to make one important mistake. The woman identified as "Marci Albright" is, I believe, actually "Marti Albright".

And why is this important?  Perhaps you haven't even heard of Ms. Albright. That's a problem.

Marti Albright was recently appointed to head the "Take Pride in America" initiative, a join partnership between the wise-use American Recreation Coalition and Ms. Norton aimed to advance the cause of privatization through volunteerism. 

The more one learns about TPIA, the more frightening this program becomes. A superficial glance might lead one to conclude that TPIA was benign, if not beneficial. And how very very wrong you'd be if you were to come to that conclusion.


--- begin quoted---

Gale Force

Laura Flanders is the host of "Your Call" heard on KALW-FM in San Francisco, and on the Internet, and author of Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species, forthcoming from Verso Books in March 2004.

(Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from Laura Flander's new book, "Bushwomen," published by Verso Books.)

Once upon a time, Gale Ann Norton campaigned against the national security state.

An ambitious young lawyer with a radical world view, she wanted to legalize marijuana and end the censorship of porn. As for troops abroad, she backed a presidential candidate who would have brought every last soldier home. He opposed Ronald Reagan, called for a ban on nuclear weapons and pledged to dissolve just about every acronym agency in Washington, including the EPA, the Department of Energy and most definitely the FBI and the CIA.

Two decades later, the same Gale Norton is a federal agent herself, a cabinet secretary in a Republican administration that has expanded federal police powers as never before. Spying, infiltration, even military tribunals are back. The young Norton would have scoffed at any attempt to call an occupation abroad and Big Brother at home patriotic, but Gale Norton, Secretary of the Interior, seems quite happy to play little sister to George W. Bush's Big Bro.

In January, 2001, Ruth Bennett watched her friend's Senate confirmation with a smile. "Gale always was very bright, ambitious and hardworking," says Bennett, a Libertarian who lives in Washington state. Bennett's the sort of Libertarian who supports the transfer of federal lands into private hands. On that, she and Norton once agreed. In 1979-80, they toiled endless hours on the presidential campaign of Ed Clark, the great presidential hopeful of the fledging Libertarian Party. Norton coordinated Clark's Colorado state campaign. It was, as Bennett puts it, an "all-out" affair. The LP was determined to rattle the monopoly interests of the entrenched two-party system, raise a banner for individual liberties, and to evict Washington from the public's property.

That Norton should come to join the Republican Party, assume a spot in a cabinet next to Christian moralizers like John Ashcroft, and become the nation's largest landlord-with control over some 500 million acres of parks, wilderness and wildlife refuges is ironic, Bennett admits, but it is not altogether a surprise.

"People change, beliefs change. I think she saw a way to get into a position where she could wield some power," Bennett says.

Ron Arnold agrees that Norton has been through what he calls, "a series of metamorphoses." Arnold, executive director of the Center for Defense of Free Enterprise, is the official biographer of Norton's mentor and predecessor at Interior, James Watt. Arnold authored the 1988 Wise Use agenda which called for the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, and the selling off of public parks.

"Gale started out as a super duper attorney fighting for the property rights issues I care about," says Arnold. But then she went astray: "She went to work for the government and took an oath to serve. You never keep a friend when they move to Washington," says Arnold.

The good news for Arnold (if not for Bennett) is that in Norton, so-called "property rights" advocates still have a friend. She has not given up on the "Wise Use" agenda; she has just found a way inside government to pursue anti-government goals. Sure enough, she told the Senate confirmation committee that she looked forward to managing the "untamed wilderness of Alaska" as a "beautiful and special place." But once confirmed, a beautiful place for oil drilling turned out to be what she had in mind. She still talks about individual freedoms; they tend to be the freedoms of miner, the driller, the corporate rancher, that's all. The freedom of the pot smoker or the war resister has long gone by the by.

Gale Norton was born in Wichita, Kan. in 1954, a baby boom child, daughter of Dale and Anna Jacqueline Norton. Her father received his professional training on the public purse, learning aviation mechanics in the U.S. Army. He parlayed his skills into a lifetime of jobs in private business, working for the aviation firms Cessna, Beech Aircraft, and for more than decade, Learjet. When Gale was five, the Nortons moved to Thornton, a liberal suburb outside Denver. These were the days of population growth and city sprawl and construction-boom galore. The demand for power and energy was rising, and private companies working on government contracts made out like bandits with backhoes. As far as families like the Nortons were concerned, they weren't rich (they lived in a trailer when they first moved to town) but the American Dream was alive and well; it was playing at the movies, too, and John Wayne starred.

At the height of the Vietnam War, eager to distract from the environmental devastation and human carnage in Southeast Asia, President Nixon took the temperature of the times and hit a Green-note his 1970 State of the Union. "The 1970s absolutely must be the years when America pays its debt to the past by reclaiming the purity of its air, its waters and our living environment," Nixon told Congress. "It is literally now or never."

Gale Norton was 16, a high school "A" student, an outspoken kid, according to her teachers, who "wasn't Miss Popularity by any means." She spent little time on dating, but did take time off to protest the Vietnam war. Born the same year as her cabinet colleague Condoleezza Rice, Norton was a few years behind her in college, but they both attended Denver University. In 1975, Rice received her BA and graduated with a degree in political science and a husband, Harold Everett Reed, a man four years her senior.

Marci Albright knew Norton then. Albright attended D.U. undergraduate and D.U. law alongside Gale. In the 1990s, she served as her friend's chief deputy in the state Attorney General's office and in 2003, she followed Norton to the Department of the Interior.

"Gale was always extremely bright," says Albright now. Norton worked on the transportation law journal, rather a dry area of the law, Albright agrees, but "You have to understand. Gale was always very interested in policy."

Norton's marriage with Reed was on the rocks. Personal differences and changed priorities drove them apart, Norton has said. (Reed was outed in 1993 by a local gay magazine, Out Front, which described him as "having been seen over the years in a variety of leather outfits." )

It was really tough everywhere for women in law school in those years, and "Denver was no exception," says Albright. Norton was not only a woman, but she was married, heading for a divorce, ambitious and alone. No wonder she fell for Ayn Rand.

Norton has said that it was Ayn Rand's 1943 novel The Fountainhead that turned her away from the collectivism of the anti-war set and on to libertarianism.

"I liked the philosophy based on individuality," said Norton. One assumes she's talking about the male individuality in The Fountainhead. The heroine in Rand's classic is "taken by force," by Rand's hero, Howard Roark. A brilliant, ambitious architect, Gary Cooper played Roark in the film.) Roark's "taking" of Dominque Francon is all part of his struggle against the forces of obscurity and conformism. He gains individual recognition and acclaim. (Francon, for her part, comes to submit to his power and brilliance.)

Something clicked, says Norton. It must have been the click of wish-fulfillment. At the time, Norton and the rest of the females in her class were in an uphill battle for recognition. "We all wondered if firms would hire us when we got out, or if we'd be shunted off to paralegal work," says Albright. The firm that hired Albright had never hired a woman before. Once in the workforce, success depended, she says, on differentiating oneself from other females.

"We felt compelled to wear the same business suits and Oxford shirts as the men, and those loopy feminized ties... We had to fit in with the male establishment to distinguish ourselves from the legal secretaries."

It came as no surprise to Albright when Norton signed up with the new policy shop in town: Mountain States Legal Foundation. James Watt, an outspoken Denver lawyer was the group's first president. He claims Norton "sought us out." They were a perfect match. Norton wanted influence in the policy world and nothing to do with the public interest outfits that were just then absorbed with equal opportunity issues of collective rights of women and minorities. And she suited MSLF's agenda. A smart, male-identified, blonde, blue-eyed woman, Norton was an attractive spokesperson for a New Right movement that was eager to distinguish itself from its ineffective brothers in the male supremacist Old Right.

Watt told the Denver Post that Norton came off well in a job interview. "I was so impressed with her, but I didn't know what a libertarian she was," he said. A colleague of Watt's told him that "A Libertarian is just a conservative Republican who smokes grass." When he asked Norton about it, she laughed. "She said she didn't smoke grass but it gave the right connotation." If she didn't smoke grass, Watt should have been especially impressed. Avoiding marijuana in Norton's circles at the time was quite an accomplishment.

The Libertarian Party was founded in Denver in 1972. Stressing individual freedom above all else, Libertarians favored an unregulated economy, an end to all laws governing private behavior between consenting people, a return to the gold standard, "freedom of choice" in abortion, quitting the United Nations, and opposition to the draft. "Yes, I was an active Libertarian," Norton told a reporter in 1994. "But then I decided to go into practical politics."

A "senior attorney" at the age of 25, at Mountain States, Norton helped file lawsuits disputing Interior Department grazing permits and Environmental Protection Agency clean air rules. With Watt, she submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court that challenged the constitutionality of the Surface Mining Act. She represented the state of Louisiana's bid to repeal the Crude Oil Windfall Profits tax on oil companies which passed during the Carter administration. She worked on the case with Professor Richard Epstein of the University of Chicago Law School, an up-and-coming libertarian legal scholar.

Policy-wonk that she was, Norton also immersed herself in what was then a rather obscure backwater of property-rights debate. She took up what is called the "takings" issue, and helped to craft an argument that the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution requires the government to pay polluters not to violate environmental laws, and "compensate" timber companies for the old growth trees they are not allowed to log. Norton's mentor Epstein, in a 1985 book on "takings" argued that along with environmental laws, minimum wage laws and labor codes, building permits, even income taxes were a form of "takings" that should be compensated. The advantages to the corporations, like Coors, that underwrote such work were obvious. In fact, a study published in the Yale Law Journal in 1984 revealed that in 24 of the cases on their docket, MSLF advocated positions that "directly benefited corporations represented on their board of directors, clients of firms represented on its board of litigation, or major contributors to the MSLF's budget."

Norton's work at Mountain States was rewarded in 1983 by a fellowship from Stanford University's Hoover Institute. There again just like Condoleezza Rice, Norton was given free time to explore new policy possibilities and legal loopholes in the environmentalists' rules. Among other things, she studied what was then the novel idea of changing air-pollution laws to permit industries to exchange "emissions credits." Under George W. Bush, the idea was written into the Clean Air Act.

Her year-long fellowship at Hoover was followed by another at the Political Economy Research Center (PERC) in Bozeman, Mont., an outfit whose website displays the motto "Free Market Solutions to Environmental Problems." PERC advocates selling off national parks to private firms (Disney, perhaps?) and publishes a "parent's guide to teaching children about the environment that is intended to "counter the environmental movement's indoctrination of the nation's youth in public schools." One of PERC's major funders is David Koch.

By the time the Louisiana "Windfall Profits" case (U.S. v. Ptasynski) came to be heard in Washington, Norton's former boss Watt was serving in the Reagan administration. Busy at the Department of Interior, he made time to watch his former employee argue her case before the Justices. Norton lost, but she attracted the eye of Washington and Watt says he lobbied for the administration to bring her on board.

"The first position (we) put her in was over at (the U.S. Department of) Agriculture," he told the Denver Post in 1994. She arrived in 1984. By then, things had become pretty hot for Reagan's anti-regulatory regulators. Watt himself was burning up.

Ham-handedness just wasn't going to cut it. After Watt exited in ignominy, Norton came to town.

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