Lawsuit Seeks Records of Lolita Zinke’s Travel, Role at Department of the Interior

American Oversight today sued the Department of the Interior (DOI) to force the release of records related to Lolita Zinke, wife of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and her role at the department, use of taxpayer-funded travel, and participation in official meetings or other events.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Montana-based Western Values Project which submitted the initial Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests seeking the records.

“Time and again we’ve seen how personal relationships and political loyalty trump competency in the current administration, and it appears the Department of the Interior is no different,” said American Oversight Executive Director Austin Evers. “We’re suing the Department of the Interior to uncover the truth about what role Secretary Zinke’s wife is playing in running the department, how much it’s costing taxpayers, and why she was jetting off to Europe with her husband on a military plane.”

“Under Secretary Zinke’s leadership the Department of Interior has turned into a front group for special interests,” said Chris Saeger, Executive Director of the Western Values Project. “We filed this FOIA because there should be transparency and accountability for everyone who influences Interior’s decisions. If Lola Zinke is playing a role at Interior, taxpayers deserve to know if she is playing by the same rules as everyone else who works there.”

Lolita Zinke has reportedly joined her husband extensively on his official travel – including on a military plane to Norway, Greenland, and Alaska – and has played an unusually prominent role at the Department of the Interior for the spouse of a cabinet secretary. On October 2nd, DOI’s Inspector General announced it was opening an investigation into travel by Secretary Zinke.

The lawsuit is part of American Oversight’s broader investigation into Secretary Zinke’s management of DOI – including his government-funded travel, involvement in relaxing standards for toxic chemicals, and meetings related to the construction of President Trump’s border wall. On Wednesday, American Oversight submitted an additional FOIA request seeking further details about Lolita Zinke’s presence and activities at DOI.

In early June, the Western Values Project submitted FOIA requests to DOI asking for records, communications and documents related to Lolita Zinke’s role in the department, including her participation in internal meetings, presence on official trips, and emails sent be her in relation to government business. DOI failed to adequately respond to the FOIA requests as required by law, and American Oversight filed suit today on behalf of the Western Values Project in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to force the release of relevant documents.

Related Blog Posts

October 20, 2017

Congressional Russia Investigations Must be Transparent and Credible

General News
October 17, 2017

5 Questions for Attorney General Sessions

Department of Justice
October 10, 2017

New Lawsuit Seeks Answers about Ben Carson’s Management of HUD

Department of Housing and Urban Development
Investigation Update
October 6, 2017

American Oversight Calls for Investigation of Manhattan DA Vance’s Failure to Investigate Fraud at Trump SoHo Development

General News
October 5, 2017

Call for Ethics Investigation of Rep. Luke Messer

Office of Congressional Ethics
General News
October 3, 2017

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s Calendars Show Deep Industry Connections

Environmental Protection Agency
Investigation Update
September 29, 2017

“Serious, Likely Irreparable” Damage from Border Wall

Department of the Interior
Investigation Update
September 18, 2017

Austin Evers Discusses Trump Inaugural Funds on MSNBC

General News
September 12, 2017

New Lawsuit: Did the FBI Really Advise Sessions to Omit Russian Contacts?

Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Investigation Update
September 7, 2017

Investigating EPA’s Attacks on a Journalist

Environmental Protection Agency
Investigation Update
August 30, 2017

Watchdog Groups Launch Joint Investigation into EPA Oversight of Toxic Substances Control Act

Investigation Update
August 28, 2017

Statement on EPA IG Investigation of Pruitt Travel

Environmental Protection Agency
Investigation Update
August 1, 2017

Statement on Waiver of Environmental Regulations for Border Wall

Investigation Update
July 27, 2017

Call for OSC Investigation of Pruitt Travel to Oklahoma

Environmental Protection Agency
Investigation Update
July 6, 2017

American Oversight Statement on Resignation of OGE Director Shaub

Office of Government Ethics
General News
June 28, 2017

Ethics Watchdog Sues GSA for Trump International Hotel Lease Records

General Services Administration
Investigation Update
June 27, 2017

American Oversight Sues EPA to Release Pruitt’s Calendars and Communications with Carl Icahn

Environmental Protection Agency
Investigation Update
June 23, 2017

Francisco & the Travel Ban: What We Learned from the DOJ Documents

Department of Justice
Investigation Update
June 22, 2017

American Oversight and Environmental Working Group Challenge EPA Over Failure to Release Pesticide Records

Environmental Protection Agency
Investigation Update
June 16, 2017

Watchdog Group Files Lawsuit on Trump Border Wall

Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security, Department of the Interior, Office of Management and Budget
Investigation Update
June 7, 2017

Statement on the Release of Lobbyist Ethics Waivers

Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of the Interior, Department of the Treasury, Department of Veterans Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency
Investigation Update
May 31, 2017

Investigation of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s Apparent Presence at ExxonMobil Deal Signing

Department of State
Investigation Update
May 17, 2017

Watchdog Sues to Force Release of Ethics Waivers from Eight Trump Administration Agencies

Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of the Interior, Department of the Treasury, Department of Veterans Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency
Investigation Update
May 9, 2017

Watchdog Sues to Release Ethics Records of Solicitor General Nominee

Department of Justice
Investigation Update
May 5, 2017

Letter to Senator Grassley: Renew Leadership on Ethics and Transparency

Office of Government Ethics
Investigation Update
April 12, 2017

American Oversight and Environmental Working Group Demand Release of Pruitt Communications with Pesticide Industry

Environmental Protection Agency
Investigation Update
April 4, 2017

10 Questions about the Border Wall that Deserve Big, Beautiful Answers

Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security, Department of the Interior
Investigation Update
March 30, 2017

Analysis: Anti-Lobbying Act & Dan Scavino

White House
General News
March 28, 2017

Statement on Trump Administration Proposal to Build Border Wall South of Rio Grande

Department of the Interior
Investigation Update
March 24, 2017

American Oversight Launches Investigation of President Trump’s Border Wall

Department of Homeland Security
Investigation Update
March 24, 2017

American Oversight Calls for Investigation of Mnuchin for “Batman” Promotion

Department of the Treasury, Office of Government Ethics
General News