Ryan Zinke’s Unethical Leadership at Interior

Since his appointment by President Trump, Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Ryan Zinke’s conduct has raised questions about his management of the department and his use of taxpayer resources. From flights on government jets to potentially involving family members in official government business, it is important for the public to understand exactly what Secretary Zinke has been doing with his time in office.

What We’re Seeking:

  •  Any records related to Zinke’s taxpayer-funded travel, meetings, and other events, specifically travel to Europe with his wife, visits to or near his hometown in Montana, and a $12,375 trip to Las Vegas.
  • Communications with pesticide manufacturers and the manipulation of government studies that reveal the risk these pesticides pose to endangered species.
  • Records of meetings or communications with Zinke relating to President Trump’s proposed border wall.
  • Any records related to what influenced Zinke’s decision to exclude Florida from its offshore drilling plan, and how Interior is determining where offshore drilling will take place.
  • Documents related to offshore drilling or the “2019-2024 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Draft Proposed Program.”
  • Unredacted, full versions of Zinke’s calendar.
  • Records from Zinke’s meeting with Halliburton Chairman David Lesar, with whom Zinke was involved in a questionable real-estate deal.
  • Records of the department’s decision to classify uranium as a “critical mineral,” even though it doesn’t meet the accepted definition.
  • Communications regarding private tours of national park sites that Zinke and his wife arranged for their friends.  
  • Communications that can shed light on whether the reassignment of a National Parks Service superintendent was politically motivated.

Background:

On October 2, 2017, DOI’s Inspector General announced it was opening an investigation into outgoing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke following his use of government planes for taxpayer-funded travel, including a trip to his hometown. Zinke has since faced upwards of 15 ethics investigations — from his role in a land deal with the chairman of Haliburton to his reassignment of appointees who have previously been critical of him. American Oversight is conducting a broader investigation into Zinke’s questionable behavior and his overall management of DOI.

On behalf of Western Values Project, American Oversight is also investigating any role that his wife, Lolita Zinke, may be playing at the department. She has reportedly joined her husband on official travel and has an unusually large presence at Interior, including having sent emails related to government business and having participated in government meetings.

On January 4, 2018, Zinke announced plans for drilling in more than a billion acres of U.S. coastal areas, areas off the coast of Florida, which Florida Governor Rick Scott opposed. Five days later, Zinke tweeted that Florida would no longer be included in the new plans for offshore oil and gas drilling.

Zinke announced that he would be stepping down from Interior at the beginning of 2019, but American Oversight is still investigating that decision to exempt Florida from the offshore drilling plan. Other ongoing investigations include his arrangement of personal VIP tours of national parks; his awarding of a $300 million Puerto Rico electricity-restoration contract to a small Montana company; and his dubious office renovations.

Updates

Our Unanswered Ryan Zinke Questions

December 17, 2018
Interior Secretary Zinke may have timed his departure to avoid facing scrutiny from the next Congress, but American Oversight’s investigation isn’t going anywhere.

Statement on Ryan Zinke’s Departure from Interior Department

December 15, 2018
"For all his feigned swagger, Ryan Zinke lacked the courage or integrity to face accountability, skipping town as soon as he faced scrutiny," said Austin Evers, Executive Director of American Oversight.

Western Values Project and American Oversight Sue Interior for Records Related to Zinke’s Alleged Corruption

October 10, 2018
Western Values Project (WVP), a Montana-based conservation group, represented by watchdog American Oversight, today filed a lawsuit against the Department of the Interior (DOI) to investigate whether Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has used his position for personal or political gain. WVP is seeking the release of a broad range of documents related to Zinke’s conduct during his tenure as secretary, including records of Zinke’s travel to various political conferences, his communications with individuals tied to Halliburton, and any emails sent by or to Zinke on personal email accounts or private servers.  
Show all updates

Related Documents

December 19, 2018

FOIA to Interior Seeking Zinke’s Tweet about Rep. Grijalva

Department of the Interior
FOIA Request
December 13, 2018

BSEE Communications Between Scott Angelle and the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association

Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, Department of the Interior
Agency Record
November 19, 2018

FOIA to DOI Regarding VIP Tours of National Parks

Department of the Interior
FOIA Request
November 19, 2018

FOIA to NPS Regarding VIP Tours of National Parks

Department of the Interior, National Park Service
FOIA Request
October 30, 2018

BOEM Records Regarding Offshore Drilling Seeking Communications with Florida and Energy Groups

Department of the Interior
Agency Record
October 30, 2018

BOEM Emails Regarding Offshore Drilling Seeking State Communications

Department of the Interior
Agency Record
October 30, 2018

FOIA to Interior Regarding Political Connections In DOI Grant Review Process

Department of the Interior
FOIA Request
October 10, 2018

Complaint: American Oversight and Western Values Project v. Interior – Secretary Zinke’s Leadership

Department of the Interior
Litigation
October 4, 2018

FOIA to DOI Regarding the Endangered Species Act

Department of the Interior
FOIA Request
August 10, 2018

DOI Calendars for Deputy Chiefs of Staff Downey Magallanes and Michael Argo and CoS Scott Hommel

Department of the Interior
Agency Record
August 6, 2018

DOI Records Regarding Offshore Drilling and Communications with Coastal States and Outside Influences

Agency Record
August 6, 2018

Interior Communications with Coastal States Regarding Offshore Drilling and Outside Influences

Department of the Interior
Agency Record
May 24, 2018

Complaint: American Oversight v. DOI – Zinke’s Offshore Drilling Plan

Department of the Interior
Litigation
March 9, 2018

FOIA to DOI Regarding Offshore Drilling in Light of Upcoming Elections

Department of the Interior
FOIA Request
March 9, 2018

FOIA to DOI BOEM Regarding Zinke’s Offshore Plans and States Seeking Exemption

Department of the Interior
FOIA Request
January 18, 2018

FOIA to DOI Regarding Offshore Drilling

Department of the Interior
FOIA Request
January 18, 2018

FOIA to DOI-BOEM Regarding Offshore Drilling

Department of the Interior
FOIA Request
November 16, 2017

Lola Zinke Travel Records

Department of the Interior
Agency Record
October 5, 2017

Complaint: Western Values Project v. DOI – Lola Zinke Role at Interior

Department of the Interior
Litigation
September 20, 2017

FOIA Request Regarding Video Game Installation at DOI

Department of the Interior
FOIA Request
September 20, 2017

FOIA to DOI Regarding Big Buck Hunter

Department of the Interior
FOIA Request
May 17, 2017

DOI Reply Regarding Secretary Zinke’s Calendars

Department of the Interior
Agency Reply