Zinke Spent $14K-Plus To Take Gov Helicopters To Events Around DC

Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke spent more than $14,000 this summer to fly in a helicopter to two events in and around Washington, D.C., Politico reported Thursday evening.

The use of the helicopters — which he used so he could attend the swearing-in ceremony for a member of Congress and to go on a horseback ride with the vice president — was justified by his staff as being the only feasible way to accommodate his busy schedule on those days. Both times his department requested the helicopters from the U.S. Park Police.

On June 21, his staff spent $8,000 to fly Zinke and his Chief of Staff Scott Hommel from Capitol Hill, where he attended Rep. Greg Gianforte’s (R-MT) swearing-in ceremony, to an emergency management exercise in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Staff told Politico they booked the flight because of the lack of time between the two events.

Gianforte replaced Zinke in Congress after he was appointed to the Department of the Interior. The congressman was charged with assault when he body slammed a reporter who was trying to ask him a question just before the election.

Zinke also took a helicopter on July 7 to fly to an event in Yorktown, Virginia and back to D.C. so he could be back in Washington in time to go on a horseback ride with Vice President Mike Pence, according to the documents obtained by Politico. 

Politico acquired the travel logs through a Freedom of Information Act request. The news comes as the Interior Department’s inspector general and the Office of Special Counsel conduct separate probes into Zinke’s mixing of official business travel and political events.