Obama picks outdoor retail exec to lead Interior

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 6, 2013 at 6:15 pm •  Published: February 6, 2013
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Jewell is the first woman Obama has nominated for his second-term Cabinet and a prominent representative from the business community, addressing two criticisms Obama has faced.

While relatively unknown in political circles, Jewell is no stranger to the White House. In 2011, she introduced Obama at a White House conference on the "America's Great Outdoors" initiative, noting that the $289 billion outdoor-recreation industry supports 6.5 million jobs. She also appeared at a 2009 White House event on health care.

Jewell, who won the Audubon Society's 2009 Rachel Carson Award for Environmental Conservation, was hailed by environmental and business groups alike.

Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune called her a champion in the effort to connect children with nature and said she has "a demonstrated commitment to preserving the higher purposes public lands hold for all Americans — recreation, adventure, and enjoyment."

Tim Wigley, president of the Western Energy Alliance, which represents the oil and natural gas industry, said Jewell's experience as a petroleum engineer and business leader "will bring a unique perspective to an office that is key to our nation's energy portfolio."

Jewell, who is married with two grown children, was paid more than $2 million as REI's CEO in 2011. She contributed $5,000 to the Obama Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee set up by Obama and the Democratic Party, according to federal election records. She has contributed to numerous Democrats in her home state, including Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, as well as Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and both of Alaska's senators, Democrat Mark Begich and Republican Lisa Murkowski.

Cantwell, Udall and Murkowski all serve on the Senate energy panel, which will consider Jewell's nomination.

Jewell also was on the board of directors of Avista Corp., a Spokane-based power utility, from 1997 through 2003. U.S. Securities and Exchange documents show that in her last full year as an Avista board member, Jewell held more than 15,600 shares in the utility and received $50,000 in director's fees.

In 2004, federal prosecutors charged that Avista played a role in a 2000 deal that allowed then-energy giant Enron to sell a $3 million turbine to the northwest utility firm. Prosecutors did not criminally charge Avista, but said the utility agreed to buy the turbine before a larger deal was completed — a move that aided Enron in hiding the turbine deal from its auditors.

Avista was not criminally charged in the Enron indictment and none of the utility's officials, including Jewell, were cited in the charges.

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Associated Press writers Jack Gillum and Stephen Braun in Washington and Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Wash., contributed to this report.

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Follow Matthew Daly on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MatthewDalyWDC