Earlier today, Politico reported that the Great Northern Veterans Peace Park Foundation, created by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and currently headed by his wife, Lola, is providing crucial assistance in the planning of a commercial development funded by Halliburton’s chairman, David Lesar, in Zinke’s hometown of Whitefish, Montana. Lola Zinke pledged to let the oil giant chairman’s group build a parking lot for their project on land that had previously been donated to the Zinkes’ foundation to create a Veterans Peace Park.
“Secretary Zinke’s foundation appears to be nothing more than a P.O. Box in Whitefish and now he’s apparently using it to help a private developer at our expense. The sad fact is that this is just the latest example of Zinke attempting to personally benefit from a resource that should benefit the public,” said Chris Saeger, Executive Director of Western Values Project. “There should be an investigation into this swampy relationship and the Secretary of the Interior should immediately recuse himself from any decisions involving Halliburton.”
As Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke is responsible for overseeing decisions on oil and gas exploration on public lands that could directly benefit oil and gas multinational corporation Halliburton. Several ethics officials quoted in the article, including a former George W. Bush ethics official, raised serious concerns over the foundation’s involvement with a deal backed by the chairman of Halliburton.
Politico’s investigation also found that the Zinkes’ stand to benefit if the project goes through, as they own land on the other side of the development that could substantially increase in value if the Halliburton chairman’s new hotel, stores and microbrewery come to fruition. Moreover, according to reported conversations with the project’s developer, there’s a strong possibility the microbrewery would be set aside for Ryan and Lola Zinke to own and operate.
The Zinkes’ foundation Veterans Peace Park nearly one decade after the announcement
Originally, Ryan Zinke wanted to create a Veterans Peace Park on the land that will be now potentially be used as a parking lot. However, the park never materialized, and one Whitefish resident quoted in the story called the land a “sort of a big puddle, a mudhole puddle.”
Halliburton chairman David Lesar has a long-standing relationship with the Zinkes; he and his wife were previously maxed out donors to Ryan Zinke’s congressional campaign.