Zinke under federal investigation for speech to NHL team: report

Zinke under federal investigation for speech to NHL team: report
© Greg Nash

Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeMajority of National Park Service advisory board resigns amid protest Overnight Energy: Regulators say Perry plan didn’t pass legal muster | Chamber to push for 25-cent gas tax hike | Energy expert sees US becoming 'undisputed leader' in oil, gas Appeals court to hear suit against Interior challenging effects of coal mine leasing MORE is under investigation by two federal agencies for a speech he made to a NHL hockey team this summer, according to a new report Wednesday.

The Interior Department’s office of inspector general is now including Zinke’s use of a private jet to travel after the speech to its review of Zinke’s use of chartered and military planes, CNN reported.

The Office of Special Counsel is also investigating Zinke for a potential violation of the Hatch Act related to the speech. The Hatch Act blocks federal employees from using their positions for political purposes.

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The trip was added to the Interior Department investigation at the request of Democratic Reps. Raul Grijalva (Ariz.) and Donald McEachin (Va.), according to CNN.

The Campaign for Accountability, a nonprofit watchdog, filed a complaint with the special counsel office over Zinke’s travel on a chartered plane to speak to the NHL team the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Golden Knights are owned by Fidelity National Financial chairman Bill Foley. Foley personally made maximum campaign donations to Zinke’s reelection campaigns for his Montana House seat in 2013 and 2014, totaling $5,200, according to campaign finance records. That relationship creates the potential conflict of interest with Zinke's political position.

Zinke reportedly gave a “motivational speech” to the Vegas Golden Knights in Las Vegas in June before taking a private, chartered jet to Montana.

Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift told Environment & Energy that Zinke “was asked to give a speech about leadership and the importance of teamwork.”

“The department's career ethics officials determined this was well within the department's mission and it also was a key audience of people we are trying to target to use our public lands," she said.

Zinke is the latest federal official to be under scrutiny for his use of private travel – Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittWith offshore drilling scheme, Trump's America looks like a banana republic Overnight Energy: California regulators vote to close nuclear plant | Watchdog expands Pruitt travel probe | Washington state seeks exemption from offshore drilling plan Overnight Regulation: Fight erupts over gun export rules | WH meets advocates on prison reform | Officials move to allow Medicaid work requirements | New IRS guidance on taxes MORE and former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceOvernight Health Care: House GOP considers adding health measures to funding bill | WH doctor says Trump in 'excellent' health | Gallup: Number of uninsured up 3M in 2017 | CDC chief to miss fourth hearing New watchdog group targets Trump HHS on reproductive health EPA inspector general further expands probe into Pruitt travel MORE all faced probes over their own use of private, military or chartered planes and the funds it requires from taxpayers.

Veteran Affairs Secretary David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinA 2018 challenge to government animal experimenters: find your own funding Reforming veterans health care for all generations of veterans Trump signs executive order aimed at reducing veteran suicides MORE is also being investigated over a government trip to Europe last summer during which he reportedly spent half of his time sightseeing or shopping.