Statement by Western Values Project Deputy Director Jayson O’Neill on the announcement of an Inspector General’s review of a possible investigation into scandal-plagued Secretary Zinke using his official position for private gain:
“This is the right first step in determining whether Secretary Zinke broke the law by using his official position to help broker a sweetheart land deal that could benefit himself and his family. When you read through the twists and turns Secretary Zinke has spun trying to explain his actions, you realize this scandal has more layers than an onion. It is absolutely critical that the Inspector General peel those layers back in a thorough investigation.”
In the Secretary’s first interview since the scandal broke on the conservative Voices of Montana radio show, Zinke explained the August meeting in his office. During the interview, the Secretary said, “So they [Lesar and his son] come and say, ‘hey, what’s the background.’ So we meet in the office…” It is against the law to use your public office for private gain, especially on the taxpayers’ dime, which is exactly what this meeting appears to be. In an apparent mockery of the situation, Zinke went on to say that they discussed his philosophy as a ‘Pinchot supporter.’
The part of the interview audio where Zinke discusses the meeting with the Halliburton Chairman and his son is available here. The full interview is available for download on the Voices of Montana website.
Zinke’s family’s foundation is helping a Halliburton-backed developer and maxed-out political donor exploit land that had originally been set aside for a veterans park for public use for a commercial development [POLITICO, 6/19/18]
Zinke had a meeting in his official office and gave a Lincoln Memorial tour to private developers while the developers were engaged in a land deal with Secretary Zinke’s wife in his hometown of Whitefish, Montana that stood to enrich Secretary Zinke’s family. One of the developers in attendance was the chairman of Halliburton, an oil and gas multinational corporation that drills on the public lands Zinke oversees as Interior Secretary [POLITICO, 6/21/18]
The scandal-plagued secretary has already been the subject of a record amount of investigations in his short tenure at the helm of Interior.