FEBRUARY 15, 2007
The top environmental prosecutor at the Department of Justice purchased a $1 million home with the vice president and top lobbyist of a major oil company just months before granting leniency in its multi million-dollar pollution settlement with the government.
As head of the Justice Department’s 600-employee Environmental and Natural Resources Division, Assistant Attorney General Sue Wooldridge represents practically every federal agency in cases related to pollution, natural resources and wildlife. Houston-based ConocoPhillips, an international company with $164 billion in assets, was ordered to conduct toxic waste cleanup and install $525 million in pollution controls at nine refineries.
Wooldridge quietly signed consent decrees giving the mega oil and energy company an extra three years to complete the costly work. It turns out that ConocoPhillips’ vice president is a good friend and business associate of Wooldridge’s and the company’s top lobbyist, a well-connected former Deputy Interior Secretary, happens to be her boyfriend.
The boyfriend, Steven Giles, is the highest-ranking Bush Administration official being criminally investigated in the Jack Abramoff corruption probe. When Giles left his post at the Department of the Interior he joined a powerful lobbying firm that recently severed ties with him because of his involvement with Abramoff, who is currently in prison.
Giles, Woodridge and ConocoPhillips vice president Donald Duncan are longtime friends who back years. The trio purchased the lavish North Carolina home in a gated community just months before the federal prosecutor granted her friend’s company a lot of extra time to comply with the law.
The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has launched an investigation into the real estate transaction and the committee’s chairman, a California congressman, said that there appears to be a “breakdown of ethics” at the Justice Department and that Justice Department officials should not be handling cases that affect their close friends and investment partners.
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