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 ZinkeInterior fast tracks study of drilling's Arctic impact: report Zinke left some details off public calendar: report House completes first half of 2019 spending bills 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 PruittOvernight Energy: Court rejects new effort to stop kids' climate lawsuit | Baltimore is latest city to sue over climate change | EPA staffers worried about toxic chemical in Pruitt's desk Pruitt staffers worried about toxic chemical in his desk Andrew Wheeler must reverse damage to American heartland MORE and former Health and Human Services 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 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 ShulkinTrump loyalists purge VA of longtime staffers who don’t support agenda: report Poll: Majority in some GOP districts say Republicans 'more corrupt' than Dems On paper, Wilkie is the perfect candidate for VA secretary, but his qualifications go further 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.