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19 November 2005

Dove Italia è?

The most entertaining thing C-Span has ever webcast:

Go HERE and scroll down to this:

Investigation of Indian Tribal Lobbying

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, continues the ongoing investigation of lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Today's witness is Italia Federici, President of the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy. She worked closely with Abramoff and J. Stephen Griles, a former Deputy Sec. of Interior.

Thursday 17 November 2005: WASHINGTON, DC: 1 hr. 30 min.

Please make yourself some popcorn and set aside the time to watch the whole thing. You won't BELIEVE a Senate committee (Indian Affairs) could possibly be so entertaining.

Please have a little sympathy with Italia Federica. Look at her face. This sweet young woman is innocent. Of everything. How can these two mean old Senators -- a Republican AND a Democrat are double-teaming her, grilling and sauteeing her -- think this lovely, adorable young Republican activist is lying? Can't they understand that she was just a naive, innocent dupe from small-town America, unused to the wicked ways of evil Washington DC lobbyists? They used her, they used her small-town friendliness, her open, trusting nature.

It's clear from her testimony that she is suffering from severe memory impairments. She can't remember a thing about her activities as President of CREA. Before she opened up this dubious, shadowy kitchen-table website P.O. Box operation, she was a campaign aide to Gale Norton in her failed race for U.S. Senate from Colorado. Subsequently President Bush appointed Norton as Secretary of the Interior.

Did I tell you to watch this webcast? Watch this webcast.

Someone Big has told Ms. Federici to be the Fall Guy (Fall Gal) in this Indian casino scandal, even if she has to do a little prison time a la Martha Stewart. If she can keep her mouth shut, not implicate any higher-up Bush administration figures, and take her medicine, the next Republican president can pardon her and find her a cushy but quiet administration job.

Here's a nifty article from the week when the Committee had subpoenaed Ms. Federici, but couldn't find her to serve the subpoena.

During the C-Span hearing webcast, watch for both the Senators to threaten her, one with Contempt of Congress, the other with Perjury -- well, he said SOMEBODY's been lying to the Committee, and when he figures out who, that someone better watch out.

I think that's Ms. Federici's lawyer sitting next to her, napping.

Iraq's huge, FEMA and Katarina are huge, Scooter Libby and the CIA leak are huge, Tom DeLay is Real Big ... but coming up from behind on the outside is the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. I think it's going to be the real scandal to grow legs and grab America's attention.

It's very entertaining.


The Denver Post (Colorado USA)
Sunday 6 November 2005

Where is Italia Federici?

By John Aloysius Farrell
Denver Post Washington Bureau Chief

Washington -- I feel better. My sleuthing skills haven't totally deserted me. Even the U.S. marshals couldn't find Italia Federici.

Federici is a former political aide to Interior Secretary Gale Norton and a confidante of other department officials, most notably former Deputy Interior Secretary Steven Griles. She heads a group called the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy.

A few months back, I tried to find CREA's Washington offices, to ask Federici why her group got $250,000 from Indian gambling tribes that were clients of indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

I failed. CREA, it turned out, didn't have an office. The address on its website was a mail drop. Apparently, it is run out of Italia's home and pocket.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs, is investigating Abramoff's dealings with the tribes, including the $250,000 for CREA.

"The question is: Why?" said McCain. "The committee can point to nothing that CREA did for the tribes in particular or on Native American issues in general that merited such generosity."

McCain held a hearing last week, but Federici ducked the committee's subpoena. "She has been unable to be located," the chairman said, vowing to schedule a session with Federici as the only witness, "as soon as the U.S. marshals do their job."

McCain promised, with an icy smile, that Federici would know of his displeasure when he does get her to testify.

Federici's lawyer says she wrote a letter to the committee informing them she had other commitments. A note from the nurse may get you out of gym class, but not a Senate corruption probe. McCain sent out the marshals.

It is too bad that Federici didn't show. Maybe she could have explained the e-mails and testimony that portrayed her as a go-between for Abramoff and her friend Griles.

"Hi Jack. I hate to bother you with this right now, but I was hoping to ask about a possible contribution for CREA. As usual, we budgeted and spent all our money from last year ... and have started out the new year with practically nada," Federici wrote Abramoff in a Jan. 9, 2003, e-mail. "I thought I'd see if there was any way you could help us reach out to some of your folks who were so generous last year?"

"Absolutely. We'll get that moving asap," Abramoff e-mailed back. Then he mentioned a difficulty that one of his gambling clients was having with Interior. "Can you make sure Steve knows about this and puts the kibosh on it?"

"I will tell him," Italia promised.

As McCain sees it, "Abramoff believed that Ms. Federici had 'juice' at the Department" and "might have had his tribal clients pay so much because he perceived that ... Federici would help him get inside information about, and possibly influence, tribal issues."

"Abramoff expected ... Federici to do his bidding with a close friend," added Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, the ranking Democrat, referring to Federici's relationship with Griles.

Well, I guess that could explain why Abramoff urged his gambling tribes to shower CREA with cash.

A red-faced Griles did show up to testify. He sat at the witness table, where Federici was represented by an empty chair. His fingers sometimes trembled as he told the committee he couldn't remember too much.

"I don't recall me intervening on behalf of Mr. Abramoff's clients, ever," said Griles. "Italia Federici was a friend. Gale Norton introduced me."

He reminded the senators how Abramoff was a preening braggart, often exaggerating his accomplishments in e-mails. "If he got this money in part by misrepresenting his relationship with me, I am extremely pleased you are investigating this," Griles said solemnly.

Griles is the highest-ranking Bush administration official to be caught up in the Abramoff scandal. Norton may have dodged the bullet.

Norton's former counsel, Michael Rossetti, told the senators how he grew increasingly suspicious of Griles, who was making "constant requests" on behalf of an Abramoff client.

"I was alarmed that Mr. Griles all of a sudden had an inexplicable desire to get involved" in Norton's Indian gaming rulings, said Rossetti. Ultimately, he confronted Griles, and got him to back off.

At one point in the hearing, a chivalrous Griles declined the chance to say that Federici was peddling exaggerated influence herself.

"Whether she actually did have access and influence, or whether she was just saying so to have Mr. Abramoff's tribes continue their donations, is a question," McCain acknowledged.

A question Federici will be asked to answer. Once the marshals find her.

John Aloysius Farrell's column appears each Sunday in Perspective. Comment at the Washington and the West blog ( or contact him at

All contents Copyright 2005 The Denver Post. All rights reserved.


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