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 Lolita Zinke, wife of Secretary Ryan Zinke, and her role at DOI.
  •      Any records related to Secretary 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.
  •      Costs, documents, and other records related to the installation of Big Buck Hunter, including the motivations for doing so and how often the game is played.
  •      Communications with pesticide manufacturers and the manipulation of government studies revealing the risk that these pesticides pose to endangered species. 
  •      Records of meetings or communications with Secretary Zinke relating to President Trump’s proposed border wall.
  • Any records related to what influenced Zinke’s decision to not include Florida in its offshore drilling plan and how Interior is determining where offshore drilling is going to take place.
  • Documents related to offshore drilling or the “2019-2024 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Draft Proposed Program”


On October 2, 2017, DOI’s Inspector General announced it was opening an investigation into Secretary Ryan Zinke following his unethical use of government planes for taxpayer-funded travel, including a trip to his hometown. American Oversight is conducting a broader investigation into Zinke’s overall management of DOI and questionable behavior while serving as secretary for the department.

On behalf of Western Values project, American Oversight is also investigating any role that Lolita Zinke, the wife of Secretary Zinke, may be playing at DOI. Ms. Zinke has reportedly joined her husband on official travel and has an unusually large presence that the department, including sending emails related to government business and participating in government meetings.

On April 28, 2017, President Trump signed an order allowing for the expansion of coastal areas available for offshore drilling. Then on January 4, 2018, Zinke announced its plans for drilling in all U.S. coastal areas including more than a billion acres in the Arctic, Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, according to the New York Times.

This included areas off the coast of Florida and Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, opposed this decision. Five days later, Zinke tweeted that there Florida would no longer be included in the new plans for offshore oil and gas drilling.

Questions have been raised about Zinke’s motive to exempt Florida from this decision, as many other governors from different states also objected to the order – and subsequent news reports have suggested that the White House did not necessarily approve of Zinke’s Florida announcement. American Oversight seeks to find out what influenced this decision and how Interior is determining where offshore drilling is going to take place.