Zinke chartered flight in oil executive's plane for $12,000: report

Zinke chartered flight in oil executive's plane for $12,000: report
© Greg Nash

Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeZinke left some details off public calendar: report House completes first half of 2019 spending bills The Hill's Morning Report — Russia furor grips Washington MORE chartered a flight over the summer on a private plane owned by oil and gas executives.

According to a Washington Post report, the flight from Las Vegas to Kalispell, Mont., near Zinke's home in Whitefish, Mont., cost taxpayers $12,375. Commercial flights run daily between the airports and cost as little as $300.

Zinke also used private planes during a trip to the Virgin Islands, according to the Post.

Zinke had reportedly been in Las Vegas to give a speech to the city's hockey team, the Vegas Golden Knights. 

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Heather Swift, a spokeswoman for the Interior Department, said the Zinke charter flights were approved by ethics officials and that private planes were only used when commercial flights were unavailable. 

The Post report followed a Politico report that Zinke and his aides have taken multiple flights on private or military planes to go to events in his home state of Montana and between two Caribbean islands.

Swift told Politico that Zinke's other flights were booked after the department was unable to find commercial flights corresponding with the secretary's schedule and that they were all pre-cleared by ethics officials in the department. 

Still, the revelation could pull Zinke into the expanding controversy surrounding the use of private and government aircraft by some Trump administration officials.

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PricePoll: Majority in some GOP districts say Republicans 'more corrupt' than Dems Five GOP lawmakers mulling bid to lead conservative caucus Overnight Health Care: Watchdog finds Tom Price improperly used funds on flights | Ex-Novartis CEO sent drug pricing proposal to Cohen | HHS staffers depart after controversial social media posts MORE is facing particular scrutiny after a series of Politico reports detailing the former congressman's use of private planes and military jets. Those trips, according to Politico, have cost taxpayers more than $1 million since May.

The HHS inspector general is reviewing Price's travel arrangements, and the secretary announced Thursday that he would pay back part of his travel costs to the government.

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinDem lawmaker calls for cryptocurrency probe after Mueller indictments Meet the woman who is Trump's new emissary to Capitol Hill On The Money: Fed chief lays out risks of trade war | Senate floats new Russia sanctions amid Trump backlash | House passes bill to boost business investment MORE has also faced questions about his use of government planes, instead of flying commercial. The Treasury Department inspector general is reviewing Mnuchin's travel, as well.