- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 7, 2007


The head of a Republican environmental-advocacy group is set to plead guilty in the Jack Abramoff scandal and is cooperating with an FBI investigation into corruption involving Congress and the Bush administration, two persons close to the case said yesterday.

Italia Federici served as a go-between for Abramoff, the once-powerful lobbyist, and J. Steven Griles, the deputy interior secretary during President Bush’s first term, prosecutors said yesterday in documents charging her with tax evasion and obstructing a Senate inquiry into the Abramoff scandal.

Under a deal with the Justice Department, she must cooperate with authorities and is identifying other criminal targets, one of the persons said.

Authorities think Ms. Federici may be able to provide information about former Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton, other Bush administration officials and the contacts that she, Abramoff and Griles cultivated in Congress, the second individual said.

Both spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing and because the plea deal will not be official until a court hearing scheduled for tomorrow.

Ms. Federici introduced Abramoff to Griles, an introduction that Griles said gave the lobbyist more credibility and allowed him greater access to the department. After making his entree, Abramoff repeatedly sought Griles‘ intervention at the Interior Department on behalf of American Indian tribal clients.

Jonathan Rosen and Noam Fischman, Ms. Federici’s attorneys, said in a statement that their client “regrets her past trust and confidence in Jack Abramoff, a then-highly regarded Washington lobbyist who professed a shared interest in Ms. Federici’s environmental advocacy.”

Ms. Federici is accused of lying about her relationship with Griles and Abramoff in testimony before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, which in 2005 was investigating Abramoff’s dealings with officials in the Interior Department. Ms. Federici’s attorneys said she accepted responsibility for her mistakes.

“Such conduct is not only inconsistent with her own ideals and expectations, but also contradicts her years of public service in the not-for-profit community,” the lawyers said.

In March, Griles became the highest-ranking administration official convicted in the lobbying scandal when he pleaded guilty to a felony charge of obstructing justice by lying to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in 2005.

Ms. Federici co-founded the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy (CREA) with Mrs. Norton, who went on to become Interior Department secretary, and Grover Norquist, a college friend of Abramoff and a close ally of Mr. Bush.

Prosecutors said Ms. Federici supplemented her CREA salary by making ATM withdrawals directly from the organization’s bank accounts. She did not pay income tax from 2001 to 2003 and owes tens of thousands of dollars in back taxes, prosecutors said.

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