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.
— Secretary Ryan Zinke (@SecretaryZinke) January 9, 2018
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.