Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned after his actions led to 18 different federal investigations, and Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Interior, is close behind with a dozen investigations of his own.
“Scandals Pile Up For Interior Chief Ryan Zinke”
— newslink7.com (@newslink7com) July 23, 2018
As long as Pruitt was around attracting the attention of environmental groups, government watchdogs, and Democrats, Zinke could fly under the radar and not receive much attention for his ethical lapses.
But now that Pruitt is gone Zinke has stepped up as the most scandal-plagued member of Trump’s cabinet, and it’s unclear how long he can survive in the current atmosphere in Washington.
“Since being sworn in in March 2017, the former Montana congressman and Navy SEAL has proven himself a loyal soldier of Trump’s deregulatory agenda, working to scrap environmental safeguards and boost mining and fossil fuel production. But much like Pruitt, Zinke has been unable to steer clear of negative headlines. He has faced at least 11 formal investigations ― many of them ongoing ― and calls for several others. That’s more than the last four interior secretaries combined, according to an analysis by Colorado-based conservation group Center for Western Priorities.’
A spokesman for the Center for Western Priorities (CWP) had this to say about Zinke:
“Scott Pruitt was the best thing Ryan Zinke had going for him. Between his shady business deals and clear abuse of office, Secretary Zinke could soon find himself spending more time responding to investigators than doing his job.”
Lest we forget, here is a reminder of some of the ethical problems that Zinke has brought upon himself:
- Shady Montana Real Estate Deal. Last Thursday we reported:
“The U.S. Interior Department’s watchdog said in a letter to lawmakers on Wednesday that it was investigating a Montana real estate deal involving a foundation set up by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and a development group backed by the chairman of oil service company Halliburton.“
- Secret Meetings. “CNN reported Thursday that it had uncovered several instances where Zinke’s official calendar excluded information about whom he met with or what was discussed.”
- Personal Use of Government Planes and Helicopters. “Zinke took a $6,250 round-trip helicopter flight to meet Vice President Mike Pence for an afternoon horseback ride. He also took a $12,375 chartered flight from Las Vegas to Montana.”
- Helping Rick Scott in Florida. “Zinke traveled to Florida and announced that on the recommendation of Gov. Rick Scott ― a staunch Trump supporter ― he was removing the state’s coastal waters from offshore drilling consideration. CNN reported in April that the Office of Special Counsel is reviewing whether the announcement violates the Hatch Act.”
- Trying to bully U.S. Senators. “Last year, Zinke phoned Alaska Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan after Murkowski delivered a key vote to block the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Sullivan told the Anchorage Daily News that Zinke delivered a “troubling message,” indicating that Murkowski’s defection could jeopardize future energy projects in Alaska.”
- Mixing Business With Politics. “Zinke has on several occasions met with Republican donors and attended GOP fundraisers during taxpayer-funded trips.”
This is just a partial list of Zinke’s ethical problems and the investigations he is facing. If we learned anything from the Scott Pruitt debacle, it is that Trump administration officials are not only unethical, but they don’t even try to hide it, and don’t seem to care about criticisms from the media or Democrats.
If Ryan Zinke follows in the footsteps of Pruitt, then there are sure to be many more ethical violations in his future.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.