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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

Norton was born in Wichita, Kansasmarker and raised in Wichita and Thornton, Colorado, and graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Denvermarker in 1975 and earned her Juris Doctor degree with honors from the same university in 1978. She divorced her first husband, Harold Everett Reed, when he was publicly reported as gay by the Denver local gay newspaper, OutFront [36591]. 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 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 [36592], 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.

Political career

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.marker as Associate Solicitor of the United States Department of the Interiormarker, 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 Denvermarker-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 2004, Norton was 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.

Norton resigned as Secretary of the Interior in March 2006. She was succeeded by Idahomarker Governor Dirk Kempthorne.

After Norton's resignation, she joined Royal Dutch Shell Oil company as a legal adviser in their oil-shale division, drawing further criticism from environmentalists due to her prior support for oil drilling and use of U.S. national forests. On September 17, 2009 the United States Department of Justicemarker made it known that they were investigating whether Norton used her government position to illegally benefit Royal Dutch Shell.

Jack Abramoff controversy

Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy (CREA) was founded by Norton and Grover Norquist in the 1990s. Jack Abramoff directed his tribal casinos to donate $225,000 to CREA.

In a February 2002 letter to Norton, John Doolittle complained that a Louisiana tribal casino had been wrongly shut down because the Bureau of Indian Affairs refused to recognize a newly elected tribal council. The subsequent new council hired Abramoff's firm after the elections. In June 2003, Doolittle wrote a letter to Norton criticizing the Bush administration's response to a tribal government dispute in Iowamarker. In October 2003, Doolittle appealed in a letter to Norton for quicker action for a Massachusettsmarker tribe that was seeking federal recognition.

No evidence has been presented suggesting that mailing these letters to Norton had any impact on her or on the Department of the Interior.

Both the Iowa and Massachusetts tribes hired Abramoff's lobbying firm, Greenberg Traurig, in that year.

Electoral history

  • 1996 Race for U.S. Senate - Republican Primary


  1. Norton will join Royal Dutch Shell - Steve McMillan, Denver Post, December 28, 2006
  2. Casino Bid Prompted High-Stakes Lobbying - Susan Schmidt, Washington Post, March 13, 2005
  3. Papers Link GOP Lawmaker, Abramoff Clients - Erica Werner, San Francisco Chronicle, January 29, 2006

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