Press enter to search

Secretary of the Interior

The Secretary of the Interior is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate to lead all activities at the Department.

Ryan Zinke is a politician who has served in the U.S. Congress and Montana State legislature. He has come under fire for his management of a Super PAC as a congressional candidate, and for violating ethics standards as a Navy SEAL. Despite his claims to be a conservationist in the mold of Teddy Roosevelt, he has rewarded the energy industry for their support of his campaigns by protecting loopholes that hurt American taxpayers.

Sources: [Kristen Welker, “Trump Taps Montana Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke as Interior Secretary,” NBC News, 12/13/16, Darryl Fears, “Senate confirms Ryan Zinke as interior secretary,” Washington Post, 03/01/17, “Zinke, Ryan,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, accessed 07/10/17, Molly Redden, “GOP Congressional Candidate Using Campaign Money Scheme Pioneered by…Stephen Colbert,” Mother Jones, 11/01/13, John S. Adams, “Former Navy officer stands by statements against Zinke,” Great Falls Tribune, 10/22/14, Matthew Chappell, “No resemblance between Zinke, Roosevelt,” Missoulian, 04/26/17, Matt Lee Ashley and Nidhi Thakar, “Massive Coal Company Fights To Preserve Loopholes, Ability To Rip Off Taxpayers,” ThinkProgress, 08/11/15, and Political Moneyline Search for Ryan Zinke, CQ, accessed 07/07/17]

Special Interests

Richard Spencer (Political Extremism)

In 2014, Ryan Zinke received a $500 donation from Richard Spencer, the director of the National Policy Institute, which bills itself as a think-tank dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of European people.

Learn More

also connected to:

Earl Holt (Political Extremism)

Ryan Zinke accepted $500 from Earl Holt, the leader of white supremacist group Council of Conservative Citizens, whose website radicalized Charlestown church shooter Dylann Roof.

Learn More

also connected to:

Taylor Rose (Political Extremism)

In 2016, Ryan Zinke endorsed Montana congressional candidate Taylor Rose, who was deeply active in white nationalism and had ties with a number of extremist European political parties.

Learn More

also connected to:

Arch Coal (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Ryan Zinke, since 2013, has accepted $9,000 in campaign contributions from Arch Coal, a leading coal producer and marketer, which sold 96 million tons of coal in 2016.

Learn More

also connected to:

Cloud Peak Energy (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Ryan Zinke has accepted at least $10,000 in campaign contributions from Cloud Peak Energy Resources, one of the largest U.S. coal producers, with operations in Wyoming and Montana.

Learn More

also connected to:

Haliburton (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Ryan Zinke, since 2013, has accepted more than $23,000 in campaign contributions from Halliburton, an oil and gas conglomerate.

Learn More

also connected to:

Oasis Petroleum (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Ryan Zinke, since 2013, has accepted more than $46,000 in campaign contributions from Oasis Petroleum, an oil and gas exploration and production company in the western United States.

Learn More

also connected to:

Peabody Energy (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Ryan Zinke, since 2013, has accepted $4,000 in campaign contributions from Peabody Energy, the largest private-sector coal company in the world.

Learn More

also connected to:

Chevron (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Ryan Zinke has accepted $7,500 in campaign contributions from the multinational Chevron Corporation, a conglomerate with oil, natural gas, and LNG production and exploration operations.

Learn More
National Mining Association (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Ryan Zinke, since 2013, has accepted nearly $5,000 in campaign contributions from the National Mining Association, the coal industry's trade association, which has more than 300 member companies and organizations.

Learn More

also connected to:

Red Apple Group (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Ryan Zinke, since 2013, has accepted more than $16,000 in campaign contributions from the Red Apple Group, an energy conglomerate that owns United Refining, a crude oil refinery that processes 70,000 barrels of oil a day.

Learn More

also connected to:

Federal Forest Resource Coalition (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Ryan Zinke, since 2013, has accepted $3,000 in campaign contributions from the Federal Forest Resource Coalition, a trade group of federal timber purchasers with more than 650 member companies in 28 States.

Learn More

also connected to:

ExxonMobil Corporation (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Ryan Zinke has accepted more than $11,500 in campaign contributions from multinational oil and gas company Exxon Mobil.

Learn More
Marathon Oil Corporation (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Ryan Zinke has accepted $5,500 in campaign contributions from the Marathon Oil Corporation, an oil and natural gas exploration and production company.

Learn More
Newfield Exploration Company (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Ryan Zinke has accepted $7,500 in campaign contributions from the Newfield Exploration Company, a petroleum and natural gas exploration and production company with operations in Oklahoma, Utah, and North Dakota.

Learn More

also connected to:

Save the World Air (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Ryan Zinke, from 2012 to 2015, was a board member and "State Government Liaison" for Save the World Air, a commercial pipeline technology company with a financial interest in the Keystone Pipeline.

Learn More

also connected to:

Alpha Natural Resources (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Ryan Zinke, since 2013, has accepted $4,500 in campaign contributions from Alpha Natural Resources, one of America's leading producers of coal, with 18 mines across the United States.

Learn More

also connected to:

Background Information

Previous Employers

Additional Background on Employers of Note:

Ryan Zinke served 23 years as a Navy SEAL.

Ryan Zinke served 23 years as a Navy SEAL, but “left the SEALs under unclear circumstances.” Zinke had “‘transgressions'” in the Navy that hurt his military career, including “inappropriately using Navy travel funds for personal travel” and lying about it, claiming he was attempting “to set up SEAL training in Montana.” This resulted in Zinke being investigated for misusing government funds and being ordered to pay the government back. Despite this investigation, in his confirmation hearing for Secretary of the Interior, Zinke told the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources that he had never “been investigated …by any federal…law enforcement authority for the violation of any federal…law, regulation, or ordinance.”

[“Home,” Ryan Zinke, accessed 07/09/17, Molly Redden, “GOP Congressional Candidate Using Campaign Money Scheme Pioneered by…Stephen Colbert,” Mother Jones, 11/01/13, John S. Adams, “Former Navy officer stands by statements against Zinke,” Great Falls Tribune, 10/22/14, Charles S. Johnson, “Zinke touts leadership experience in U.S. House race,” Missoulian, 09/28/14, and Ryan Zinke, “Statement by Completion for Presidential Nominees,” Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, 01/09/17]

Ryan Zinke, from December 2012 through January 1, 2015, served on the Board of Directors for Save the World Air, Inc. (STWA), and, beginning in 2013, served as a “State Government Liaison” with STWA.

Ryan Zinke, from December 2012 through January 1, 2015, served on the Board of Directors for Save the World Air, Inc. (STWA), and, beginning in 2013, served as a “State Government Liaison” with STWA. STWA, which developed and commercialized “pipeline flow assurance technologies that improve the economics, safety, and efficiencies of crude oil extraction and transportation systems,” had serious financial problems, including state and federal tax liens. STWA also had a financial interest in the Keystone Pipeline; in 2013 STWA entered “an equipment lease/option to purchase deal with TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, L.P. by its agent TC Oil Pipeline Operations, Inc.” In 2015, shortly after he joined Congress, Ryan Zinke became an original cosponsor of legislation to build the Keystone XL Pipeline.

[Save the World Air, Press Release, 12/14/12, “Independent Contractor Agreement,” Securities and Exchange Commission, 2013, Save the World Air, Press Release, 11/25/13, Data from Nexis-Lexis, “Canada: STWA Inks Inked Equipment Lease/option to Purchase Deal with TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, L.P,” Highbeam Research, 08/06/13, and “H.R. 3,” United States House of Representatives, 114th Congress]

Ryan Zinke “created the Special Operations for America (SOFA) super PAC to back Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.”

Ryan Zinke “created the Special Operations for America (SOFA) super PAC to back Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign,” and in 2013, SOFA PAC transitioned to supporting congressional campaigns.Zinke resigned from the super PAC on September 30, 2013, and in October 2013 the super PAC made Zinke their “first candidate.” After the super PAC had spent $250,000 in support of Zinke’s congressional campaign, Zinke made the treasurer of the super PAC his congressional chief of staff. Although Zinke denied “taking a paycheck from SOFA,” from July 2012 to March 2013 the super-PAC paid Zinke’s company, Continental Divide International, $26,317.11 for “‘fundraising consulting’ and ‘strategy consulting.'” He also received complaints “alleging illegal coordination” between his campaign and SOFA PAC.

[Matt Volz, “GOP’s Zinke reaps benefit of PAC he founded, but is it legal?,” Associated Press, 02/16/14, Charles Johnson, “Democrats blast Zinke’s pick of former super PAC treasurer as chief of staff,” Billings Gazette, 01/07/15, Molly Redden, “GOP Congressional Candidate Using Campaign Money Scheme Pioneered by…Stephen Colbert,” Mother Jones, 11/01/13, and Troy Carter, “Zinke denies super PAC coordination,” Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 07/31/14]

Ryan Zinke, from, 2008 to 2014, was “the CEO of Continental Divide International, a business development consulting company.”

Ryan Zinke, from, 2008 to 2014, was “the CEO of Continental Divide International, a business development consulting company.”Continental Divide International was, in accordance with an ordinance passed in 2010, required to have a Home Occupation Business License but did not apply with the City of Whitefish for a Home Occupation Business License until December 17, 2013. As such, it was operating for years without a license from the city.

[Buck Traxler, “Conrad punches ticket for Livingstone-Zinke stop,” Independent-Observer, 07/20/13, “Business Licensing Provisions,” City of Whitefish, accessed 07/09/17, and Home Occupation Business License Application for Continental Divide International, LLC, 12/17/13]

Jamie and Ryan Zinke, in 2011, created Double Tap LLC.

Jamie and Ryan Zinke, in 2011, created Double Tap LLC. Ryan Zinke has been the managing member of Double Tap LLC since 2011. Double Tap LLC, in 2013, was involuntarily dissolved by the State of Montana due to failure to file “legally required Annual Reports and fees.” Double Tap LLC last filed an annual report in 2012.

[Articles of Organization for Double Tap LLC, 06/06/11, Involuntary Dissolution Notice for Double Tap LLC, 2013, Double Tap, LLC Annual Reports, and Ryan Zinke’s OGE Form 278e, 12/18/16]

Ryan Zinke was the president of On Point Montana, LLC.

Ryan Zinke was the president of On Point Montana, LLC, “a security consulting firm,” from January 2012 to December 2014. In 2013, On Point Montana, LLC was involuntarily dissolved by the State of Montana for failure to file legally required annual reports and fees. It last filed an annual report with the State of Montana in 2012.

[Ryan Zinke’s OGE Form 278e, 12/18/16, Involuntary Dissolution Notice for On Point Montana, LLC, 2013, On Point Montana, LLC Annual Reports, and Charles Johnson, “U.S. House candidate Zinke amasses more wealth than Lewis,” Missoulian, 07/16/14]

Political Connections

Oil & Gas Ties

Ryan Zinke has taken in more than $355,000 in political contributions from the oil and gas industry. 

Ryan Zinke has taken in more than $355,000 in political contributions from the oil and gas industry. Some of the top donors to Zinke’s congressional campaigns include Oasis Petroleum, Haliburton, and the Red Apple Group.

[Search for Ryan Zinke, Center for Responsive Politics, accessed 07/07/17, and “Donors,” Center for Responsive Politics, accessed 07/12/17]

Coal Ties

Ryan Zinke, since becoming a member of Congress, has accepted over $31,000 from the coal industry.

Ryan Zinke, since becoming a member of Congress, has accepted over $31,000 from the coal industry. Some of his largest contributors are Alpha Natural Resources PAC, Arch Coal PAC, and Peabody Energy Corporation PAC. He has also accepted contributions from Cloud Peak Energy Resources PAC, Hecla Mining PAC, and the National Mining Association PAC.

[Political Moneyline Search for Ryan Zinke, CQ, accessed 07/07/17 and National Institute on Money in State Politics Search for Ryan Zinke, accessed 07/12/17]

White Supremacist Ties

In 2014, “Earl Holt, the leader of the Council of Conservative Citizens, made a $500 donation to [Ryan] Zinke’s election campaign.” The Council of Conservative Citizens is described as “a white supremacist group cited by Charleston” convicted church murderer Dylann Roof. A manifesto “purportedly written by Roof says he learned about ‘brutal black on white murders’ from the Council of Conservative Citizens website.” Zinke’s spokesperson said he would donate the money “to a fund set up for the families of the victims of the Charleston shooting.”

[“Zinke to donate funds from White Supremacist,” Associated Press, 06/22/15]

Ryan Zinke, in 2014, also received a $500 donation “from Richard Spencer, director of the National Policy Institute now based in Whitefish that bills itself as a think-tank dedicated to the ‘heritage, identity, and future of European people.'” Zinke’s spokesperson said he would also donate this $500.

[“Zinke to donate funds from White Supremacist,” Associated Press, 06/22/15]

Relevant Voting

Ryan Zinke, in 2015, introduced an amendment that would have blocked the Obama administration from implementing a rule to close a loophole that allows coal companies “to sell coal to their own subsidiary companies at intentionally depressed prices to avoid royalty payments,” thereby “shortchanging Western states on revenue that could be used for schools, roads, and other priorities.” Zinke’s proposal to keep the loophole open was referred to as a “shameless break” for big oil companies.

Cloud Peak Energy

Cloud Peak Energy, whose PAC gave Zinke’s campaign fund $4,500 in the five months before he introduced the amendment and $6,000 in the two months after he introduced the amendment, appeared to be the “biggest benefactor” and “most staunch defender” of the loophole. Zinke also wrote a letter to the Interior Department asking that they take into account a peer review “completed by Energy Ventures Analysis, Inc.”(EVA) in their consideration of whether or not to close the loophole. The EVA report was completed “at the request of Cloud Peak Energy.”

[Nicole Gentile, “Congressman Tries To Quietly Preserve Coal Loophole,” Think Progress, 06/30/15, and Editorial, “Gazette opinion: Zinke pushes quietly to take money away from taxpayers,” Billings Gazette, 07/06/15, Matt Le and Nidhi Thakar, “Massive Coal Company Fights To Preserve Loopholes, Ability To Rip Off Taxpayers,” ThinkProgress, 08/11/15, and Ryan Zinke to Sally Jewell, 09/28/15]

Alpha Natural Resources and Peabody Energy

Alpha Natural Resources and Peabody Energy, which have contributed thousands of dollars to Ryan Zinke’s campaign committee, also appear to benefit from this loophole as both companies have numerous domestic and foreign subsidiaries.

[Political Moneyline Search for Ryan Zinke, CQ, accessed 07/07/17, and Matt Lee-Ashley and Nidhi Thakar, “King Coal is Merrily Fiddling the Taxpayer,” Newsweek, 01/12/15]

Ryan Zinke, in 2015, was a cosponsor and voted in committee for H.R. 1644.

Ryan Zinke, in 2015, was a cosponsor and voted in committee for H.R. 1644, legislation to block Interior’s Office of Surface Mining (OSM) from publishing new rules on mountaintop removal mining until OSM “conduct[ed] an ‘industry impact’ study.” The rule that the legislation aimed to block would “update standards for buffer zones around streams where mining activities and waste are prohibited.”

The Vice President of Alpha Natural Resources, one of the coal companies that donated to Zinke’s campaign, testified before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources that OSM’s proposal to update standards for buffer zones around streams was “unnecessary, unjustified, and dangerous and certainly [did] not meet any cost-benefit standard.” Cloud Peak Energy, another Zinke donor, also lobbied Congress in support of H.R. 1644.

[John Paul Jones, “‘Preventing Government Waste and Protecting Coal Mining Jobs in America Act’ (H.R. 2824),” House Committee on Natural Resources, 08/02/13, “H.R. 1644,” House Natural Resources Committee Vote, 09/10/15, H.R. 1644, United States House of Representatives, 114th Congress, Alex Guillen, “Interior proposes boosting stream protections from coal mining,” Politico, 07/16/15, Devin Henry, “GOP bill blocking Obama coal rule set to hit House floor,” The Hill, 01/06/16, and “Cloud Peak Energy Resources 2015 Third Quarter Report,” United States Senate Lobbying Disclosure Act Database, accessed 07/09/17]

Ryan Zinke was “a vocal proponent of the ill-fated Gateway Pacific Terminal.”

Ryan Zinke was “a vocal proponent of the ill-fated Gateway Pacific Terminal,” which “was supposed to be the largest coal exporting facility on the West Coast.” Zinke called the project “‘a must-build project.'” The permit for the project was denied by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), which said that “the project would infringe on” tribal fishing rights.

Zinke campaign donor Cloud Peak Energy had significant financial interest in the Gateway Pacific Terminal, and Zinke co-sponsored “a controversial amendment” that would “guarantee the completion of [the] National Environmental Policy Act review” for the Gateway Pacific Terminal. The amendment was “controversial” because the Lummi Nation said that the Gateway Pacific Terminal project “would violate treaty-protected fishing rights and, therefore, the Army Corps of Engineers [had] no business reviewing permit applications.” Peabody Energy, another one of Zinke’s donors, was also “a major supporter and potential customer of the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal.”

[Peter Wagner, “Zinke, a proponent of GPT terminal, tapped for interior secretary,” KGMI News, 12/15/16, accessed via archive.org, Nives Dolšak, Aseem Prakash, & Maggie Allen, “The big fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline, explained,” Washington Post, 09/20/08, Steve Daines, Press Release, 07/29/15, Cloud Peak Energy, Press Release, 08/13/15, Grace Toohey, “Northwest tribes fear corporate interests trump treaty rights,” McClatchy, 12/03/15, Manuel Quiñones, “Tribes to lobby against pro-export amendment,” Energy & Environment, 12/02/15, and Samantha Wohlfeil, “Potential Cherry Point coal terminal customer files for bankruptcy,” Bellingham Herald, 04/13/16]

Ryan Zinke, in 2015, introduced H.R. 1522.

Ryan Zinke, in 2015, introduced H.R. 1522, which was a bill “to make the Indian Coal Production Tax Credit (ICPTC) permanent.” The tax break when this bill was introduced applied “only to mines put into service before 2009,” but Zinke’s bill included “language to lift the date restriction so that Cloud Peak’s proposed Big Metal Mine.” This mine, on the Crow Indian Reservation, would qualify for the tax break. Cloud Peak Energy also lobbied Congress on H.R. 1522.

[Ryan Zinke, Press Release, 03/16/15, accessed via archive.org, Matthew Brown, “Montana delegation seeks to make coal tax break permanent,” Associated Press, 03/12/15, and “Cloud Peak Energy Resources 2015 First Quarter Report,” United States Senate Lobbying Disclosure Act Database, accessed 07/09/17]

Ryan Zinke, in 2016, introduced H.R. 5259.

Ryan Zinke, in 2016, introduced H.R. 5259, a bill to “overturn a temporary federal ban on coal leases.” Cloud Peak Energy “‘strongly'” supported this bill.

[Ryan Zinke, Press Release, 05/17/16, accessed via archive.org, and Tom Lutey, “Zinke pushes to end coal lease suspension, empower communities,” Montana Standard, 06/14/16]

Ryan Zinke and 14 other members of Congress, on February 10, 2015, sent a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell asking that the Interior Department “provide a 60-day extension of the comment period” for a rule which had to with “reconsidering whether Americans are receiving a ‘fair return’ on sales of coal, oil and natural gas taken from public lands.”

A spokesman for Senator Steve Daines, whose office circulated the letter, said that Daines’ office “‘worked closely'” with Cloud Peak Energy when “‘developing the language'” of the letter. Cloud Peak Energy’s Communications Director said that the proposed rule was part of the Obama administration’s “‘onslaught on the coal industry.'”

[Tom Lutey, “Carbon copies: Elected officials pass coal industry letter off as their own,” Billings Gazette, 07/15/15 and Steve Daines et. al to Sally Jewell, 02/10/15]

Ryan Zinke, on January 3, 2017, voted to “make it easier for…Congress to cede federal control of public lands” by changing “the way Congress calculates the cost of transferring federal lands to the states.”

[H Res 5, House of Representatives Vote, 01/03/17, “H. Res. 5,” United States House of Representatives, 115th Congress, Juliet Eilperin, “House GOP rules change will make it easier to sell off federal land,” Washington Post, 01/03/17, and Emily Yehle and Jennifer Yachnin, “Zinke scares greens by backing rule to ease land transfers,” Greenwire, accessed 01/05/17]

Ryan Zinke, on September 10, 2015, voted in the House Natural Resources Committee for H.R. 538.

Ryan Zinke, on September 10, 2015, voted in the House Natural Resources Committee for H.R. 538, the Native American Energy Act, which was legislation to “exempt tribal lands from any regulations on hydraulic fracturing” and allow “environmental assessments required by the National Environmental Policy Act” to be “avoided.”

[“H.R. 538,” House Natural Resources Committee Vote, 09/10/15, Charles McConnell, “House OKs bill giving tribes more control over mineral resources,” Arizona Daily Sun, 10/09/15, and Rebecca Moss, “Tribal leaders, U.S. lawmakers discuss energy development, drawing protest,” Santa Fe New Mexican, 10/04/16]

Ryan Zinke, on July 8, 2015, voted for an “amendment from Rep. Steve Pearce” to “prohibit any increase in the royalty rates paid for oil and gas.”

[Roll Call 408, House of Representatives Vote, 07/08/15, and Heather Taylor-Miesle, “Friends of Polluters Rack Up More Dirty Votes,” Huffington Post, 08/11/15]

Ryan Zinke, on June 4, 2015, voted against the Lois Capps amendment to H.R. 2577.

Ryan Zinke, on June 4, 2015, voted against the Lois Capps amendment to H.R. 2577. This was an amendment to raise “fees on oil companies to increase funding for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which regulates oil pipelines,” to provide funding to finalize and implement pipeline safety and spill mitigation rules.

[Roll Call 305, House of Representatives Vote, 06/04/15, and Sean McMinn, “With clock ticking on Capps’s time in Washington, she’s looking for some ‘progress,'” Scripps Howard Foundation Wire, 06/16/15]

Ryan Zinke, on June 11, 2015, voted in committee for H.R. 2295.

Ryan Zinke, on June 11, 2015, voted in committee for H.R. 2295, legislation that would allow the Interior Secretary to issue rights-of-way for pipelines on National Park Service lands and would require the Interior Secretary to designate “at least 10 National Energy Security Corridors on federal lands… within two years.” The legislation would also “allow the Interior secretary to designate corridors without first completing the type of review required under the National Environmental Policy Act.”

[“H.R. 2295,” House Natural Resources Committee Vote, 06/11/15, and Jasmin Melvin, “House panel moves pipeline rights-of-way bill ahead,” Platts Gas Daily, 06/12/15]

Ryan Zinke, in 2015, was an original cosponsor of H.R. 3946.

Ryan Zinke, in 2015, was an original cosponsor of H.R. 3946, “Protecting Local Communities from Executive Overreach Act,” a bill to “limit presidential monuments to 5,000 acres or less,” ban them in parts of the West, and prohibit a president from designating or expanding a national monument without local approval. Opponents said the bill would “require an unattainable level of public input and local approval conditions for the establishment of new national monuments.”

[H.R. 3946, United States House of Representatives, 114th Congress, Jenny Rowland, “The Rise to Power of the Congressional Anti-parks Caucus,” Center for American Progress, 04/11/16, and Shaun McKinnon, “What’s rocking Sedona? A red rock monument, Obama, and a fistfight,” Arizona Republic, 12/09/15]

Ryan Zinke, in 2015, sponsored a bill to “make mining and drilling easier on Indian reservations.”

[Tom Lutey, “Zinke a key lawmaker in removing U.S. crude export ban,” Billings Gazette, 10/07/15]

Ryan Zinke, in 2016, co-signed a letter urging a change to “allow states to manage preservation efforts of the Mexican Gray Wolf without interference from the federal government,” because the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service has “proven to be incapable” in this area.

[Paul Gosar et. al. to Ken Calvert and Betty McCollum, 03/22/16]

Current Activity

Since beginning his tenure as Interior Secretary, Secretary Zinke has used of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money on chartered flights. His office has claimed that the chartered flights were “booked only when feasible commercial flights were unavailable.” Secretary Zinke is currently under investigation for his use of chartered flights.

In June 2017, Secretary Zinke “chartered a flight from Las Vegas to near his home in Montana… aboard a plane owned by oil-and-gas executives,” a flight that “cost taxpayers $12,375.”

A few months earlier, in March 2017, “Zinke and his official entourage also boarded private flights between the Caribbean islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix during a three-day trip to the Virgin Islands.” The trip included “an official snorkeling tour.”

Secretary Zinke’s spokesperson, Heather Swift, has said his “charter flights were authorized by ethics officials and booked only when feasible commercial flights were unavailable.”

[Drew Harwell and Lisa Rein, “Zinke took $12,000 charter flight home in oil executive’s plane, documents show,” Washington Post, 09/28/17]

The Interior Department’s office of inspector general is currently investigating Secretary Zinke’s use of chartered planes.

[Jacqueline Thomsen, “Interior watchdog investigating Zinke’s use of chartered jets,” The Hill, 10/02/17]

Although Secretary Zinke’s office has denied having any connection with Whitefish Energy, the power company that got a contract to restore electricity in Puerto Rico, when he was a Congressman members of his staff met with Whitefish Energy about “using the C-FAC superfund site in Columbia Falls as a transformer manufacturing plant.” Zinke also “reached out” to the Columbia Falls City Manager about building a transformer manufacturing plant.

Whitefish Energy, a “Whitefish-based power company… secured a $300 million contract to restore electricity to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.” The contract has spurred “questions from government agencies and Congress about why the 2-year-old operation from Montana was selected over larger, more experienced providers.” The company has also “come under fire because of alleged ties to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, whose hometown is Whitefish.”

Heather Swift, Secretary Zinke’s spokesperson, has defended Secretary Zinke’s relationship with Whitefish Energy CEO Andy Techmanski. According to Swift, “‘The Zinkes and the Techmanskis know each other because they both live in a small town (population 6,000) where everyone knows everyone, and his son joined a friend who worked a summer job at one of their construction sites.'”

[Mackenzie Reiss, “Questions Arise About Whitefish Company’s Puerto Rico Contract,” Daily Inter Lake, 10/24/17]

However, when he was a Congressman, Zinke’s then-district director for the Flathead Valley, John Fuller, “represent[ed] Zinke’s office during negotiations with Whitefish Energy and one of its investors, Brazilian-based Comtrafo. Comtrafo and Flathead Energy’s Andy Techmanski were proposing using the C-FAC superfund site in Columbia Falls as a transformer manufacturing plant.”

[David Winter, “Zinke connection to Whitefish Energy,” KULR, 10/30/17]

Also as a Congressman, Ryan Zinke reached out to Columbia Falls City Manager Susan Nicosia “about the project” to build a “transformer manufacturing plant at the former Columbia Falls Aluminum Co. site,” that Whitefish Energy wanted to build. Zinke also wrote a letter to Governor Steve Bullock about the site.

[Seaborn Larson, “Energy Company Considering Flathead for New Plant,” Daily Inter Lake, 12/16/16, and Ryan Zinke to Steve Bullock, 03/04/15]

Other Information

In 2012, Ryan Zinke ran for lieutenant governor.

In 2012, Ryan Zinke ran for lieutenant governor of Montana on a ticket with gubernatorial candidate Neil Livingstone, who claims he “partied with pirates, been stalked by Nazis, and tried (unsuccessfully) to spring Moammar Qaddafi from Libya.” Ryan Zinke said that “Livingstone is just the kind of leader” that Montana needed.

[Tim Murphy, “The Most Interesting Gubernatorial Candidate in the World,” Mother Jones, 03/27/12, and Charles Johnson, “Republican Livingstone announces campaign for governor, names running mate,” Missoulian, 07/11/11]

In 2016, Ryan Zinke endorsed Taylor Rose.

In 2016, Ryan Zinke endorsed Taylor Rose, who was “deeply active in white nationalism” and who had “ties with a number of extremist political parties” in Europe, in Rose’s race for Montana’s 3rd House District.

[Tristan Scott, “Young and Unorthodox, Flathead GOP Candidates Mount Challenges on Dems,” Flathead Beacon, 10/05/16, and Keegan Hankes, “Meet the New Wave of Extremists Gearing Up for the 2016 Elections,” Southern Poverty Law Center, 10/19/15]

Ryan Zinke has been all over the map on climate change.

Ryan Zinke has been all over the map on climate change. He signed a letter to President Obama “urging climate change legislation,” but he also said climate change is “‘not proven science'” and that as a geologist “he has seen no scientific evidence…that climate change is changing the weather.” Zinke “doesn’t even think that climate change is manmade.”

[Troy Carter, “U.S. House race: Zinke presents energy plan,” Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 07/30/14, Troy Carter, “Zinke: Lewis wrong on energy,” Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 06/18/14, Charles Johnson, “Lewis, Zinke debate federal budget, health care, global warming,” Billings Gazette, 10/04/14, and “Shields and Brooks on Sen. Joni Ernst’s response to the 2015 State of the Union,” PBS Newshour, 01/20/15]

Ryan Zinke favors reforming the Antiquities Act, which he thinks has been abused.

[Ryan Zinke, “US Congressional GOP Candidate Debate MT AT Large,” YouTube, 04/20/16, (85:00)]

Although Ryan Zinke has said he “‘will not tolerate selling our public lands,'” he has flip-flopped between being for and against transferring federal land to states.

[“Public Lands,” Congressman Ryan Zinke, accessed via archive.org, Eric Whitney, “Rep. Zinke, GOP Delegate Share Disagreement With Party Platform,” Montana Public Radio, 07/18/16, “Neil Livingstone is the first Montana candidate to sign the Montana Constitutional Governance Pledge,” PolyMontana, accessed via archive.org, and John S. Adams, “Lewis’ ad takes aim at Zinke’s public land record,” Great Falls Tribune, 10/06/14]

Ryan Zinke has said he is “‘concerned about the federal government’s role in the conservation process.'”

Ryan Zinke has said he is “‘concerned about the federal government’s role in the conservation process.'” He thinks the Bureau of Land Management’s plan for Sage Grouse management undermines “‘the authority of sovereign states to manage [their] own land'” and withdraws too much “‘land that has the potential for natural resource development.'”

[Ryan Zinke, Press Release, 09/22/15, accessed via archive.org, and Ryan Zinke, Press Release, 05/28/15, accessed via archive.org]

Ryan Zinke said he wants “to speed up oil and gas drilling on lands managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.” 

Ryan Zinke, in 2014, said he wants “to speed up oil and gas drilling on lands managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.” In 2015, he signed a letter to the Department of Interior complaining that oil and gas lease sales were not being approved fast enough.

[Matthew Brown and Lisa Baumann, “Montana’s U.S. House candidates’ energy plans reveal contrasts,” Missoulian, 08/03/14, and House Committee on Natural Resources, Press Release, 12/16/15]

Ryan Zinke opposed the Department of Interior’s 2015 fracking rules.

Ryan Zinke opposed the Department of Interior’s 2015 fracking rules, which increased safety standards for hydraulic fracturing on public lands. The regulations included “new standards for the construction of wells and the disposal of waste water in fracking conducted on federal land.”

[“Obama administration puts new rules on fracking,” CNN, 03/20/15]

Ryan Zinke believes that “fracking is safe.”

Ryan Zinke believes that “fracking is safe.” He said, “he has seen no scientific evidence that fracking is environmentally dangerous” and that “it is bunk that fracking is environmentally unsound.”

[Tweet by Ryan Zinke, accessed 07/07/17, Troy Carter, “Zinke: Lewis wrong on energy,” Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 06/18/14, and Ryan Zinke, “THE Hagmann AND Hagmann Report 9 9 2013 0,” YouTube, 09/10/13, (47:00)]

Ryan Zinke, in 2015, opposed an EPA Superfund listing for the Columbia Falls Aluminum Company site.

Ryan Zinke, in 2015, opposed an EPA Superfund listing for the Columbia Falls Aluminum Company site, where there was “environmental contamination” near the Flathead River, “a fishery that includes the federally designated threatened bull trout and the federally sensitive westslope cutthroat trout.”

Tests of the area “detected contaminants like cyanide, fluoride, and metals, such as arsenic, chromium, lead, and selenium.” Zinke was “vocal in his opposition” to the Superfund listing and preferred “‘a plan founded on private enterprise.'” In a letter to Governor Steve Bullock, Zinke said that he opposed the Columbia Falls Aluminum Company site being placed on the Superfund National Priority List because “being listed will significantly delay…economic development.”

[Paige Sedgewick, “Contaminates found on Columbia Falls Aluminum Co. property,” NBC Montana, 04/15/14, Justin Franz, “EPA, CFAC Finalize Agreement to Study Aluminum Plant Contamination,” Flathead Beacon, 11/30/15, Sam Wilson, “Superfund Listing Proposed for Aluminum Plant,” Daily Inter Lake, 03/24/15, and Ryan Zinke to Steve Bullock, 03/04/15]