With all eyes on the seemingly never-ending scandals that occurred during Scott Pruitt’s tenure at the EPA, the mismanagement and unethical behavior of other cabinet heads went largely under the radar. But Scott Pruitt wasn’t the only one favoring industry connections, allowing family members to benefit from his influence, and flying in style at taxpayer expense–Ryan Zinke has done this as well. We’ve been investigating Zinke’s leadership at Interior for a year and believe the public has the right to know what he’s up to and who he’s meeting with.
Calendars show what a cabinet head’s priorities are. Former EPA Administrator Pruitt’s calendars showed deep industry connections and meetings with lobbyists, while Secretary DeVos’ calendars revealed her many absences and favoring of for-profit colleges.
On November 1, 2017, American Oversight filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the Department of the Interior (DOI) to release Zinke’s calendars. In December 2017, we received a letter from DOI stating that Zinke’s calendars were available online – however, those calendars contained only very limited details.
But American Oversight recently obtained calendars of two of Ryan Zinke’s top aides Deputy Chief of Staff Downey Magallanes and Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Michael Argo from September 2017 through May 2018. These calendars include several meetings that Zinke himself attended and they include details that were not previously released to the public.
See what we found below:
On November 9, 2017, Zinke met with Tom Spoehr, director of the Heritage Foundation’s defense program. The purpose of the meeting was to “follow up on reorg Brief assigned to Scott Cameron.” Heritage has heavily influenced the administration’s government reorganization plan and has even created their own “Blueprint for Reorganization.”
Chuck Jones/First Energy
On March 7, 2018, Zinke met with Chuck Jones, the CEO of FirstEnergy. Less than a month later, FirstEnergy asked the administration to use its emergency powers to keep FirstEnergy’s coal and nuclear plants online before the company would have had to file to bankruptcy, Politico reported.
Matt Swift Meeting and Video Call
Even calendar entries that don’t include Zinke can be informative. Another meeting that we noted involved Zinke’s Deputy Chief of Staff who met with someone who had ties to former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt.
On December 12, 2017, Deputy Chief of Staff Magallanes met with Matt Swift and Madeleine Pickens. Swift is the chairman and CEO of Concordia, the nonprofit that hired Marlyn Pruitt to help organize a conference at Scott Pruitt’s request. Magallanes also had a video call with Swift on March 2, 2018.
Part of Investigation: