Ryan Zinke Knows Who Is To Blame For His Ethics Lapses, And It Is Joe Biden!

2022 midterms
Ryan Zinke Knows Who Is To Blame For His Ethics Lapses, And It Is Joe Biden!

Graded on the Trump Cabinet secretary scale, Ryan Zinke is no more than a C+. In any normal administration, the former Interior secretary's antics would have been front page news and the subject of endless congressional inquiries. Remember when he sicced the Park Police on his neighbors in a dispute over parking spaces? Or the time he diverted emergency funds during a wildfire, which he blamed on "environmental radicals," so he could take a private helicopter tour over Nevada? And who can forget the amazing coincidence of an inexperienced two-person company from his hometown ending up on the must-call list of contractors to repair Puerto Rico's devastated power grid after Hurricane Maria?

But today's Department of the Interior Inspector General's Report involves yet a different Zinke scandal involving a brewery and the adjacent park, which was under the Zinke family's control thanks to a 2008 donation of the five-acre plot to make a Veterans Peace Park overlooking Whitefish Lake and Big Mountain. For almost 10 years, nothing happened. But in that time, the land got a whole lot more valuable as Whitefish took off as a tourist destination. Zinke, who just so happens to own an adjacent plot, negotiated without success 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, the longtime chairman of Halliburton. But with Zinke at Interior, the logjam cleared, and the project — hallelujah! — was a go!


Zinke and his wife sat on the board of the Great Northern Veterans Peace Park Foundation, from which position they negotiated to cede some of the park's land — which was, remember, only five acres — to the brewery project, known as "95 Karrow," for use as parking.

When Zinke was confirmed in 2017, he promised to resign from the Foundation's board, in keeping with his ethical obligations. But according to the IG's report, that resignation existed only on paper, and he continued to negotiate with developers as before. In fact, his Interior staff arranged for the 95 Karrow developers to meet with him in his government office, and tour the Lincoln Memorial. Zinke's communications and personal involvement in every detail of development continued over some 64 emails and text messages, right up until Politico reported the story in June of 2018, at which point Zinke began announcing loudly to all his friends that his wife ran the Foundation, and he had nothing to do with it.

Which was rather belied by texts like this one from September 21, 2017:

The proposed parking lot as drawn is a non starter. When you first presented the parking lot in dc it was acceptable given that the park would maintain current access and adjust the boundary for a brewery to remedy the current encroachment. The parking lot on the last two versions have greatly expanded the scope. The foundation is willing to provide parking as we submitted twice which is greater than our initial discussion but retains the integrity of the woods and park objectives. Z

Naturally, Zinke and his wife refused to cooperate with the IG's investigation, because he's not going to be politically WITCH HUNTED. But his own communications speak for themselves. The report concluded that Zinke "failed to abide by his ethics obligations in which he committed not to manage or provide any other services to the Foundation after his appointment as Secretary of the Interior," refused to "comply with his duty of candor when questioned by the DOI’s then Designated Agency Ethics Official (DAEO) about his continued involvement in Foundation matters, including the 95 Karrow project," and "misused his official position in violation of Federal regulations by directing his subordinates to assist him with matters related to 1 the Foundation and the 95 Karrow project."

Ryan Zinke has a perfectly logical response to this, and it is "Shots fired by the deep state. Not backing down."

LOL, okay.

He's also bragging about the park that he got built, and calling Joe Biden "corrupt" — which is quite something.



What he's not doing is explaining how he came to be planning this park while he was still a federal employee. But no matter, he's running to represent Montana's in Congress once again, since Greg Gianforte — who bodyslammed a reporter and still won the race to succeed him — has gone on to the Governor's mansion.

Oh, Montana.

OPEN THREAD.

[Inspector General's Report]

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Liz Dye

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.

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