Gale Norton

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Gale Norton
Gale Norton.jpeg
48th United States Secretary of the Interior
In office
January 31, 2001 – March 31, 2006
President George W. Bush
Preceded by Bruce Babbitt
Succeeded by Dirk Kempthorne
35th Attorney General of Colorado
In office
January 8, 1991 – January 12, 1999
Governor Roy Romer
Preceded by Duane Woodard
Succeeded by Ken Salazar
Personal details
Born (1954-03-11) March 11, 1954 (age 60)
Wichita, Kansas
Political party Republican
Alma mater University of Denver

Gale Ann Norton (born March 11, 1954) served as the 48th United States Secretary of the Interior from 2001 to 2006 under President George W. Bush. She was the first woman to hold the position.

Early life and career[edit]

Norton was born in Wichita, Kansas and raised in Wichita and Thornton, Colorado, and graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Denver in 1975 and earned her Juris Doctor degree with honors from that university's College of Law in 1978. She divorced her first husband, Harold Everett Reed, when he was publicly reported as gay by the Denver local gay newspaper, OutFront.[1] She is currently married to John Hughes. In the late 1970s, she was a member of the Libertarian Party and was nearly selected as its national director in 1980. Norton was influenced by the works of novelist Ayn Rand,[2] and has been associated with a number of groups in the "wise use" or "free-market environmentalist" movement, such as the Property and Environmental Research Center [1], of which she is a fellow. She also worked as Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and, from 1979 to 1983, as a Senior Attorney for the Mountain States Legal Foundation.

Gale Norton stands by President George W. Bush and other dignitaries for the signing of a bill.

Political career[edit]

From 1991 to 1999, Norton served as Attorney General of Colorado. Prior to her election as Colorado Attorney General, Norton served in Washington, D.C. as Associate Solicitor of the United States Department of the Interior, overseeing endangered species and public lands legal issues for the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

She vehemently defended Colorado's Amendment 2 in 1992, an amendment to the Colorado state constitution that would have prevented any city, town or county in the state from taking any legislative, executive, or judicial action from recognizing homosexual citizens as a Protected class, all the way to the US Supreme Court, where it was struck down as unconstitutional in Romer v. Evans.

In 1996, she was a candidate for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, but was defeated by then-Congressman Wayne Allard. Before being named Interior Secretary in 2001, Norton was senior counsel at Brownstein, Hyatt & Farber, P.C., a Denver-based law firm. The firm was listed with the U.S. Congress as a lobbyist for NL Industries, formerly known as National Lead Company.

In a 1996 speech in support of states rights, she praised the Confederate side in the Civil War, stating that "We lost too much" when the South was defeated.[3]

In 2003, Norton ordered that 90% of the Trinity River be diverted to the Whiskytown diversion into the Sacramento. This resulted in most of that years' summer steelhead and spring chinook in the Klamath River being killed by an epidemic of ick, both bacterial and fungal. CDFG, USFWS, and NMFS counted more than 30,000 dead fish before they had to cease from the horrendous stench.

In 2004, Norton was again mentioned as a possible candidate for the U.S. Senate in her home state of Colorado, after the incumbent, Ben Nighthorse Campbell, decided to retire. However, she ultimately decided against it, and the seat was won by Democrat Ken Salazar.

Ethics investigations[edit]

In 2006 the Interior Department's Inspector General initiated an investigation into potential links between Norton's former deputy, J. Steven Griles and convicted felon Jack Abramoff. Italia Federici and David Stillwell were both found to be guilty in that investigation. Before she could be investigated, Norton resigned as Secretary of the Interior in March 2006.[4]

Norton was succeeded by Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne. At the time of her resignation, Norton was considered "the Bush administration's leading advocate for expanding oil and gas drilling and other industrial interests in the West."[4] After Norton's resignation, she joined Royal Dutch Shell Oil company as a legal adviser in their oil-shale division.[5]

On September 17, 2009 the United States Department of Justice opened another investigation into whether Norton's employment at Royal Dutch Shell violated a law that bars federal employees from discussing employment with a company if they are involved in decisions that could benefit that company.[6] The investigation focused on a 2006 decision by Norton's agency to award oil shale leases to Royal Dutch Shell, an agreement potentially worth billions of dollars. In 2010, the Justice Department closed the criminal probe, declining to press charges. In a statement, Norton called the investigation a waste of money. Kris Kolesnik, an associate inspector general with the Interior Department defended the Justice Department's actions, however, saying "we appropriately and thoroughly investigated serious allegations."[7]

During Norton's tenure, the Interior Department Inspector General also investigated Julie A. MacDonald, Norton's deputy assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. The investigation found that MacDonald had "injected herself personally and profoundly in a number of Endangered Species Act decisions." MacDonald resigned in 2007.[8]

Jack Abramoff controversy[edit]

The Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy (CREA), an advocacy group founded by Norton and Grover Norquist in the 1990s,[9] accepted $225,000 in donations from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.[10]

Recent activities[edit]

As of 2012, Norton works for Norton Regulatory Strategies a consulting firm that deals with environmental regulatory matters.[11] Also, as of 2012, she is a senior adviser for Clean Range Ventures, an energy technology venture capital firm. She also serves as a board member for the Federalist Society, the Reagan Alumni Association, and the University of Colorado Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute.[12]

Electoral history[edit]

  • 1996 United States Senate Republican Primary (Colorado)


  1. ^
  2. ^ Chait, Jonathan (2009-09-14) Wealthcare, The New Republic
  3. ^ Kettle, Martin (12 January 2001). "Echoes of slavery as Bush nominees back confederacy". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Cabinet Official Norton Resigns The Interior secretary says department links to an ethics scandal did not influence her decision. She was a big advocate of oil and gas drilling
  5. ^ Norton will join Royal Dutch Shell – Steve McMillan, Denver Post, December 28, 2006
  6. ^ Tankersley, Jim; Meyer, Josh (September 17, 2009). "Former Interior Secretary Gale Norton is focus of corruption probe". Los Angeles Times. 
  7. ^ Norton: Interior ethics probe a waste of money
  8. ^ Investigative Report of the Endangered Species Act and the Conflict Between Science and Policy Redacted
  9. ^ Abramoff Cited Aid Of Interior Official, Conflict-of-Interest Probe Is Underway
  10. ^ Casino Bid Prompted High-Stakes Lobbying – Susan Schmidt, Washington Post, March 13, 2005
  11. ^ Norton Regulatory Strategies Accessed October 4, 2012.
  12. ^ About - Norton Regulatory Strategies Accessed October 4, 2012.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Duane Woodard
Attorney General of Colorado
Succeeded by
Ken Salazar
Political offices
Preceded by
Bruce Babbitt
U.S. Secretary of the Interior
Served under: George W. Bush

Succeeded by
Dirk Kempthorne