Is It Time For Ryan Zinke To GO TO JAIL?
Ryan Zinke should really send Jacob Wohl a thank you gift. Like the newest Madden game, or a Chipotle gift card maybe. Whatever the 20-year-old incompetent criminal set is into these days. Just a little something to say thank you for flaming out so spectacularly yesterday that the political media spent the afternoon LOLing and making jokes about hipster coffee shops where a pack of vegans are whispering about the jackass who thought he could take out Robert Mueller. Because otherwise, the fact that the Interior Secretary just got referred to the Department of Justice by his own Inspector General for possible criminal prosecution would have dominated the entire news cycle. And that can really put a hitch in your giddyup!
The Post reported yesterday that the Interior Department's Inspector General has sent one of Ryan and Lola Zinke's many alleged grifts over to the DOJ to see if any laws were broken. The question is, which one? The man is the subject of 18 ongoing inquiries into potential ethics ooopsies and policy violations, so the possibilities are almost endless. Luckily, the Times got on the horn with their sources, and they think they've narrowed it down to the Halliburton land deal in Whitefish, Montana, uncovered by Politico. Which makes sense, because that thing stinks to high heaven.
See, back in 2008, Ryan Zinke persuaded the local railroad to donate a little 14-acre parcel of land to make a Veterans Peace Park in a scenic spot overlooking Whitefish Lake and Big Mountain. As local outlet The Daily Interlake reported at the time,
"The theme of this park is to celebrate life - why veterans fight," [Zinke] said.
Plans call for installing flags for all the armed forces along with a historic plaque describing the contributions of veterans and the railroad to the community of Whitefish. The board intends to seek contributions to develop the park.
Zinke and his wife headed up the Great Northern Veterans Peace Park Foundation, and they planned to have the lot graded for sledding within a year. But for whatever reason, that never happened. What did happen, however, is that Whitefish took off as a tourist destination, making that donated parcel of land a whole lot more valuable. And by 2012, Ryan Zinke, who just so happens to own an adjacent plot, was negotiating to build a high-end hotel, brewery, and retail center right next to the foundation's park site on land owned by his pal David Lesar. Lesar is a longtime oil man, and he's been the chairman of Halliburton since Dick Cheney left the position to help George Bush ruin America. Small world, huh?
Well, the Zinkes and Lesar negotiated and negotiated with the town of Whitefish, until one day Ryan Zinke found himself Secretary of the Interior. After that, things just seemed to go a lot smoother. Finally, the Zinkes would get that brewery they've had their hearts set on! As Politico reports,
The development would include a hotel and retail shops. There also would be a microbrewery — a business first proposed in 2012 by Ryan Zinke and for which he lobbied town officials for half a decade.
The Whitefish city planner, David Taylor, said in an interview that the project's developer suggested to him that the microbrewery would be set aside for Ryan and Lola Zinke to own and operate, though the developer told POLITICO that no final decisions have been made.
The fact that Zinke is in charge of doling out oil and gas leases on 500 million acres of federal land and Lesar's company is an oil servicing behemoth that stands to make billions pulling those hydrocarbons out of the ground is just a coincidence. As is the fact that Zinke's been palling around with Lesar and his son so much lately. The Post reports,
While Zinke has stepped down as president of the Great Northern Veterans Peace Park Foundation, records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that he has met with Lesar, his son and the lead project developer, Casey Malmquist, since taking office. He also corresponded with Malmquist about the project's design, the records reveal.
And, look, here's yet another coincidence! Lola Zinke, head of the Park Foundation, has generously agreed to allow the developers to use part of the Veterans Park as a parking lot. You know, for our precious veterans!
Photo via Politico
And we are just a simple East Coast Elitist, but it looks to us like that parking lot sits right behind the Zinkes' future microbrewery. Lucky thing the Zinkes are so tight with the foundation chair, huh? Oh, and the foundation's treasurer, their daughter Jennifer Zinke Detlefsen.
Nothing to see here, folks! Just ask Ryan Zinke.
The mission remains to provide a children's sledding park and community open space in a setting that recognizes the contributions of the railroad and the veterans to the community. [...] The subject LLC you mention has been in contact with Lola with the intent of expanding their parking requirements on park property. I understand a concept was provided but no formal proposal or documents have been submitted or agreed upon. I also understand by reading the paper is their proposal is supported by the City Council.
We have questions. Like how can Zinke participate in ongoing Halliburton-related business at Interior when he's ass-deep in a real estate deal with the company chairman? And did the Park Foundation get fair market value for the plot of donated parkland they're ceding to the developer right behind the Zinkes' brewery, or did they just give it away for the good of the peaceful, sledding veterans? And how many times a night does Ryan Zinke wake up in a cold sweat at the prospect of Democrat Raúl Grijalva getting hold of the gavel at the Natural Resources Committee?
And most of all, how does this DOJ referral relate to the HR fuckery last week when Ben Carson announced that a HUD political hack was parachuting into Interior to take over the Inspector General spot ASAP? Was the plan to have Suzanne Israel Tufts race in and save Zinke's ass by murdering all the investigations? And was the transfer memory-holed, because someone said, "Holy shit, do you know what the Democrats are going to do with this thing if they take the House? Abort! Abort!" And did current Acting Interior IG Mary Kendall rush this referral over to the DOJ because she suspects she's about to be shitcanned as soon as the midterms are over?
Lotsa coincidences! Lotsa questions! And what's that horrible fishy smell?
[WaPo / NYT / Daily Interlake / Politico]
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.