Statement on Ryan Zinke’s Departure from Interior Department

(Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Nonpartisan ethics watchdog American Oversight released the following statement in response to the news that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke would leave office:

“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. “Someone should remind Secretary Zinke that referrals to the Justice Department don’t expire just because you call time-out. Unfortunately for the American people, Zinke leaves behind a deputy secretary with similar ethical concerns. It is high time for the glare of sunlight to focus on Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt. We’ll see if he has the spine to answer questions that Zinke lacked.”

For the past 20 months, American Oversight has been investigating Zinke’s management of the Department of the Interior, uncovering details of his misuse of official travel, expensive office renovations at taxpayer expense, questionable meetings with industry groups, and hiring of personal friends, like his high school football teammate.

Zinke may be leaving the administration, but that investigation isn’t going anywhere. American Oversight still has multiple active FOIAs and lawsuits at Interior asking for details about Zinke’s involvement in a land deal in Montana, his meetings with industry lobbyists, and the department’s response to the hurricanes in Puerto Rico.

Over the past several months, American Oversight has filed FOIAs to begin investigating Bernhardt — a former energy lobbyist who, according to the Washington Post, has “so many potential conflicts of interest he has to carry a small card listing them all” — seeking copies of his emails with old clients, calendars, travel records, and more. Those FOIAs are available here.