Instead of doing jail time for lying to Congress in the Jack Abramoff
investigation, disgraced Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles has asked a federal
judge to be allowed to do community service with the American Recreation
Coalition and the Walt Disney Company and to once again work on their behalf
much as he did before being caught, fired and convicted.
If there is such a thing as "guilt by association" then much guilt is
revealed in the appended article. I encourage those who read it will make
note of the people, companies and programs Steven Griles has turned to in his
hour of need. Which of these people, companies and programs are worthy of
information on Steven Griles, Derrick Crandall, Disney, Wonderful Outdoor World,
Gale Norton, Bill Horn, Don Hodel, the US Forest Service, the Coleman Company and more can
all be found on the Wild Wilderness website. Simply use the search box available on the left hand side of this, and every, page.
ETHICS: Griles seeks community service
with motorized-recreation group
Dan Berman, Greenwire senior reporter
An organization with connections to the Interior Department, motorized
recreation industry and the Walt Disney Co. is holding a position open for
former Interior Deputy Secretary J. Steven Griles if he's sentenced to community
service for lying to Congress in the Jack Abramoff investigation.
Griles, 59, wants three months home confinement, 500 hours of community
service and a "reasonable" $15,000 fine when he is sentenced June 26. Half the
community service would be with "WOW - Wonderful Outdoor World," in the position
of national counselor and strategic planning coordinator. In that post, Griles
would raise money, develop new public and private partnerships and conduct
outreach to the government and media.
The request was part of a voluminous filing with Judge Ellen Huvelle of the U.S. District
Court for the District of Columbia. The package includes 91 letters supporting
Griles from former Interior Secretary Gale Norton, two Reagan-era secretaries,
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter (R), Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-Wyo.), coal industry
executives and a possible Senate nominee from Wyoming, among others.
"It's a small world after all," said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public
Employees for Environmental Responsibility. "The idea that Steve Griles would
consider this community service suggests the line in his mind of corporate
service and community service doesn't exist."
The other half of Griles' community service would be with Operation Coaches
and Warriors, which assists injured veterans of the Iraq war.
"A prison sentence is not needed to punish Mr. Griles and ensure that his
crime will never be repeated," Griles' statement reads. "The prospects of
resulting public service after this conviction are dim if not nonexistent. It is
equally unlikely that Mr. Griles will ever be able to pursue a career as a
lobbyist as he has been convicted of obstructing the same body he would be
lobbying for clients."
In March, Griles pleaded guilty to withholding information from the Senate
Indian Affairs Committee in 2005 about his meeting Abramoff through Italia
Federici, president of the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy.
Griles was dating Federici at the time (Greenwire, March
The felony charge could land Griles in prison for a maximum five years and
carry a $250,000 fine. Justice Department attorneys recommended a 10-month
sentence. Half of that would be served in a federal prison, according to DOJ's
nonbinding recommendation to the court.
WOW agreement with Interior
If the sentence recommendation is accepted, Griles would work for an
organization with close ties to the Interior Department.
In 2003, Interior, U.S. EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers, the American
Recreation Coalition and Disney signed a memorandum
of understanding, agreeing to "work together in partnership on issues of
common interest and to jointly plan and implement mutually beneficial programs
As deputy secretary at the time, Griles directly oversaw the four Interior
agencies who signed the document.
The National Park Service is a current sponsor of Wonderful Outdoor World, as
are the Forest Service, Disney, the Coleman Co. and others, but WOW is
spearheaded by the American Recreation Coalition, an organization that promotes
access for recreation on public lands.
In a letter to Judge Huvelle, Derrick Crandall, the longtime head of the
American Recreation Coalition, said Griles has already assisted in developing
ways to "dramatically augment WOW beginning this summer."
Crandall also noted he worked with Griles on expanding the mission of the
Bureau of Land Management, "supporting both recreation and wildlife programs,"
and on expanding the Take Pride in America program.
According to Griles' statement with the court, WOW is seeking to expand its
operations and program offerings and needs a man such as the former deputy
Interior secretary. "WOW needs an individual with Mr. Griles' management
expertise and knowledge of the outdoors," the statement says.
WOW is seeking a candidate who could raise at least $500,000 in contributions
-- either in-kind or in cash, according to court documents.
"Unlike other camping and recreation programs, WOW brings the wonders and
excitement of camping and the environment directly into the neighborhoods and
communities of the children most in need," according to Disney's Web site. "This
innovative new approach provides young people with the basic skills and
encouragement to enjoy further outdoor experiences."
In developing his sentence, Griles asks Huvelle to, "consider his 24 years of
public service, his longstanding and demonstrated commitment to volunteerism and
the community, and his reputation for integrity and honesty."
Prison time may also deter others from testifying before Congress and
cooperating with the legislative branch, Griles argues, noting fears of being
embarrassed or ambushed under the media glare. For instance, Indian Affairs
Committee staff withheld documents from him before he testified in November
2005, Griles argues, limiting his ability to prepare and refresh his memory of
"I can't believe a judge will look at this and say, 'Oh, what a great idea,'"
said Beth Daley of Project on Government Oversight. "He's basically going back
to being a lobbyist for his community."
Letters of support
The 91 letters supporting Griles reflect his friendships and contacts made
through an extensive career in government and industry, including three former
Interior secretaries and a litany of senior former government officials and
"The reality of Steve Griles is in many ways different from the public
perception," wrote former Interior Secretary Gale
Norton. "His powerful size and bearing seem intimidating, but those who know
him realize he is a compassionate and caring person. He helped co-workers who
were struggling. He was encouraging and upbeat when people got discouraged."
Norton noted she and Griles had a very positive working relationship while at
Interior. "Many men would have difficulty working with a woman as a superior,
especially a woman he had once outranked," Norton wrote. "Steve instead was
supportive and encouraging. We had one of the best, if not the best, working
relationships of any secretary and deputy secretary in the administration"
Several writers noted Griles sacrificed higher pay in the private sector to
return to Interior in 2001 as Norton's deputy and noted his insistence on
reimbursing costs for dinners, drinks or entertainment so as not to allow an
appearance of impropriety.
Gov. Butch Otter (R) wrote about riding horses with Griles in Idaho and
Washington's Rock Creek Park. "We have shared many trails, and I have come to
recognize that he is a genuine man who is proud of his service to the people of
our nation," Otter wrote.
Barbara Cubin (R-Wyo.) noted Griles' help on coal miners health legislation
and reauthorization of the abandoned mine lands program last year. "His voice
now strains under the sorrow and regret he bears for his infraction. I believe a
sentence of community service will benefit this nation much more than will his
Tom Sansonetti, former assistant attorney general for the environment and
natural resources division, and a rumored nominee to replace the late Wyoming
Republican Sen. Craig Thomas, also supports Griles.
"Steve is the consummate public servant," Sansonetti wrote. "He took on huge,
complicated, and often unpopular, tasks for Secretary Norton within the Interior
building, such as the complex and high-profiled Cobell case involving the
management of Indian Trust Fund monies."
Sansonetti's successor was Sue Ellen Wooldridge, who married Griles on March
26. Wooldridge resigned in January amid news reports she purchased a South
Carolina vacation home with Griles and a ConocoPhillips lobbyist, months before
DOJ and the company agreed to settle charges it violated the Clean Air Act.
Among the other 91 requests for leniency include letters from Reagan-era
Interior secretaries Don Hodel and William Clark; Craig Manson, former assistant
Interior secretary for fish, wildlife and parks; Dan Kish, senior adviser to
House Natural Resources Committee ranking member Don Young (R-Alaska); Bill
Horn, a Reagan-era assistant Interior secretary and lobbyist; former U.S. EPA
acting Administrator Marianne Horinko; Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil
Works John Paul Woodley; James Cason, Interior associate deputy secretary; Ann
Klee, former U.S. EPA general counsel and former counselor to Norton; Bennett
Raley, former assistant Interior secretary for water and science; and Dale Hall,
director of the Fish and Wildlife Service.
"It is worth noting that in a city where supporters of persons touched by
political scandal scurry away, dozens and dozens of Mr. Griles' supporters from
throughout his life have come forward to ensure that the court has an accurate
and full view of who Mr. Griles really is," Griles' statement reads.