Feb 16, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Gov't watchdog says former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke broke ethics rules

Ryan Zinke
Ryan Zinke, a contender for Montana's second congressional seat, speaks at an event in July 2021. Photo: William Campbell/Getty Images

Ryan Zinke, who served as interior secretary during the Trump administration, broke federal ethics rules for his continued involvement with a land development project in his hometown in Montana, according to a report released Wednesday by the department's internal watchdog.

Why it matters: Zinke is currently running for Congress in Montana and is considered a leading Republican candidate in the race, per the Washington Post.

The big picture: Zinke continued to work with a foundation he had helped establish on a commercial development project in Whitefish, Montana, even after he became interior secretary and formally resigned from the foundation, committing that he would no longer work on its behalf, according to the report from the office of the Interior Department's Inspector General.

  • However, emails and text messages showed that Zinke stayed in touch with developers about the project and even "negotiated with them on behalf of the Foundation," the report noted.
  • The report added that Zinke misused his position by directing employees to help him with the project and that he "did not comply with his duty of candor" when questioned by an Interior Department ethics official about his involvement with the foundation.

What they're saying: Zinke's campaign slammed the report in a statement, saying that it "published false information, and was shared with the press as a political hit job."

  • "Only in Biden’s corrupt admin is talking to one’s neighbor about the town’s public meetings and history of the land a sin. The Zinke family was able to create a free and open space for people to enjoy in Whitefish," the statement added.
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