Via POGO, I see that one of the key officials involved in giving away our (and Native American) natural resources at cut-rate prices has stepped down.
Last night Interior Department Secretary Dirk Kempthorne announced the resignation of the embattled Director of the Minerals Management Service Johnnie Burton. Burton’s tenure at the agency was fraught with decisions and policies which impaired the government’s ability to collect oil and gas drilling fees owed to the federal government and Native Americans.
Less than a month after Burton joined Interior, Griles invited her to a very cozy dinner party at the home of his former lobbying partner at National Environmental Strategies, Marc Himmelstein [link, pdf] Jim Cason, Kathleen Clarke and Rebecca Watson also attended. Himmelstein retained most of Griles' gas, oil and coal clients when he joined Interior in 2001, and a many had significant interests in the Powder River Basin. The meeting was so controversial, it, like the memo to EPA earlier that week, Griles became the subject of an ethics probe by the Office of the Inspector General.
It's quite possible that Burton is the key link in understanding Griles ardent interest in the Indian Trust Fund case.
I've maintained for a few years now that there were certain interests whose greatest fear in regards to Cobell v. Babbitt/Norton/Kempthorne was that the court, namely presiding Judge Royce Lamberth, would agree with the litigants that, due to the massive destruction and neglect of royalty reciepts on the side of the US government over the past century, that it was necessary instead to demand that the lessors, those extraction industries with leases on Indian land, open their accounting books to auditors.
Hopefully, mbw isn't driving across southwestern deserts and will weigh in at Wampum on the meaning of the Burton resignation. In her diary, she suggested Burton may be one piece of glue between Stephen Griles and Abramoff. Which would make this resignation very interesting indeed.