Report: Zinke Attended Fundraisers While On Taxpayer-Funded Trips

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaks on the Trump Administration's energy policy at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, Friday, Sept. 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Andrew Harnik/AP

During official trips throughout the U.S. on taxpayer-funded flights, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke also attended fundraisers for Republican lawmakers in Montana and Alaska, Politico reported Tuesday evening.

The report raises additional questions about Zinke’s travel habits as the Office of Government Ethics scolds Cabinet officials for their recent actions.

Zinke is one of several agency chiefs who’ve come under scrutiny in recent weeks for taking trips on non-commercial planes. Zinke has used both charter planes and government planes for official travel.

The Interior Department’s inspector general is reviewing one trip to Nevada and Las Vegas in particular. Zinke attended a meeting with the Vegas Golden Knights hockey team, which is owned by a major donor to his congressional campaign, before taking a late-night flight to Montana. Democrats argue that Zinke could have flown commercial to his official events in Montana had he not attended the hockey meeting.

It’s also been previously reported that Zinke attended a Republican fundraiser in the U.S. Virgin Islands — an official trip for which he used a non-commercial plane.

In March, Zinke attended a fundraiser in Big Sky, Montana for a committee affiliated with Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), according to Politico’s new report. Records show the Interior secretary was reimbursed for 75 percent of his per diem the day before, when he toured Yellowstone National Park, and he did not seek reimbursement for his lodging for the trip.

The Hatch Act bars government officials from participating in political events while acting in their official role, but it’s not clear that Zinke violated any rules on that March trip.

In May, Zinke attended a fundraiser for Rep. Don Young (R-AK) while he was in the state for the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, per Politico. Zinke was not listed on the official invitation for the fundraiser but did give brief remarks. For that trip, Zinke took a military plane from Europe to Alaska.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Caitlin MacNeal is a News Writer based in Washington, D.C. Before joining TPM, Caitlin interned and wrote for the Huffington Post, the Sunlight Foundation and Slate. She is a graduate of Georgetown University.
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