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Since he's such a public-spirited guy, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke generously offered to develop some land owned by his foundation in his home town of Whitefish, Montana, as a "Veterans Peace Park" where kids could go sledding in the winter and the goodly Volk could go to appreciate both veterans and, naturally enough, the BNSF railroad, which used to use the land as a gravel pit and which donated it to Zinke's "charitable" "foundation." (Zinke's foundation, it turns out, is like Trump's, if Donald Trump were just a bit more shameless.) So naturally, here comes Halliburton!


The chairman of Halliburton, who heads a group that wants to develop a business park right next to the park, and also right next to other land Zinke owns, which stands to become even more valuable in the hot new resort area, could sure use the Zinke family's help, and right on time, here they are and everyone gets a share:

A group funded by David Lesar, the Halliburton chairman, is planning a large commercial development on a former industrial site near the center of the Zinkes' hometown of Whitefish, a resort area that has grown increasingly popular with wealthy tourists. 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.

And talk about a kind gesture: the folks planning the development would hold the brewpub part of the complex to be owned by Ryan and Lola Zinke, who have dreamed of their own microbrewery in Whitefish since forever!

As for the foundation's role in all this, it has generously offered to help out the developers by letting them use part of the park -- which hasn't actually been bullt yet -- as a parking lot. No problem there, since there'd still be plenty of room for park-like purposes, maybe, someday (the land has largely sat unused since Zinke proposed the park in 2008).

And the grift keeps on giving!

The Zinkes stand to benefit from the project in another way: They own land on the other side of the development, and have long sparred with neighbors about their various plans for it. If the new hotel, retail stores and microbrewery go through, real estate agents say, the Zinke-owned land next door would stand to increase substantially in value.

Ain't that just a heck of a coincidence! And when you add in the fact that Halliburton specializes in oil wells and oil well accessories, and the Interior Department mission has become helping out the oil business, it all just seems to work out very cozily.

Ryan Zinke, needless to say, insisted that everything is perfectly on the up-and-up, because didn't he mention that he already resigned as president and board member of the foundation when he became Interior secretary? Now it's all run by Lola Zinke, who's the one who just happened to help out a real estate deal by their old pal and political supporter, the oil company chairman. And everyone involved stands to make some money, sure, by what do you monsters expect -- is Ryan Zinke supposed to put the love of his life in a blind trust?

Oh, sure, maybe in the old days it might look bad for a cabinet secretary's foundation to be helping out a friend who happens to be the chair of a company that stands to make a killing on oil and gas leases on public lands, but aren't "ethics" just one more failed Obama policy?

Besides, Halliburton issued a statement calling the real estate development in Whitefish a private investment that has nothing to do with Mr. Lesar's role as chairman of the company, so it's completely inconceivable that any conflict of interest could exist.

The ethics group Public Citizen has called for a formal inquiry into the Zinkes' connections to the land deal, sending a complaint to Ed McDonnell, the "acting designated ethics official" for the Interior Department, because of course there's no full-time official in that job. Democrats on the House committee with oversight of Interior are also planning an investigation, which is good news -- Devin Nunes does not sit on the House Natural Resources Committee, so it might even get somewhere before Louie Gohmert, who is, demands the proposed park be dedicated to fracking.

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Yr Wonkette is supported by reader donations, and we only use our foundation (a cracked bare slab in the Idaho wilderness) for legitimate charitable purposes. Click here to help our Bake Sale for socialized medicine.

[Politico / Politico]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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