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 ZinkeThe case for transferring federal lands back to Native Americans International hunting council disbands amid litigation Europe deepens energy dependence on Russia 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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: House stimulus aims to stem airline pollution | Environmental measures become sticking point in Senate talks | Progressives propose T 'green stimulus' Court sides with scientists on EPA policy barring grantees from serving on agency boards Overnight Energy: Senate energy bill stalled amid amendment fight | Coronavirus, oil prices drive market meltdown | Green groups say Dem climate plan doesn't go far enough MORE and former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceDNC chair says app used in Iowa won't be used in other primary states Hillicon Valley: Iowa chaos highlights misinformation threat | Officials blame app for delayed results | Company offers 'regret' | Nevada officials drop plans to use app | Ohio ramps up election security Company behind Iowa Democratic caucus app expresses 'regret' 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 ShulkinFormer Trump VA secretary says staffer found plans to replace him in department copier VA under pressure to ease medical marijuana rules Press: Acosta, latest to walk the plank 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.