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 ZinkeOvernight Energy: Zinke joins Trump-tied lobbying firm | Senators highlight threat from invasive species | Top Republican calls for Green New Deal vote in House Zinke, Lewandowski join Trump veterans’ lobbying firm Is a presidential appointment worth the risk? 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 PriceIs a presidential appointment worth the risk? Former Ryan aide moves to K street Grassley to test GOP on lowering drug prices 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 MnuchinHuawei CEO: Daughter's arrest was 'politically motivated' Top Chinese official heading to Washington for trade talks The Hill's Morning Report - Trump faces mounting challenges to emergency declaration 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.