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Democrat wants investigation into Zinke’s ‘taxpayer-funded helicopter rides’

Democrat wants investigation into Zinke’s ‘taxpayer-funded helicopter rides’

Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellHillicon Valley: Facebook deletes accounts for political 'spam' | Leaked research shows Google's struggles with online free speech | Trump's praise for North Korea complicates cyber deterrence | Senators want Google memo on privacy bug Congress moves to ensure the greater availability of explosives detecting dogs in the US Overnight Energy — Presented by Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance — Trump ends law enforcement program at wildlife refuges | Pruitt canceled trips he already had tickets for | Senate panel approves new parks fund MORE (D-Wash.) has called for an expanded probe into Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Political appointee taking over as Interior IG | Change comes amid Zinke probe | White Houses shelves coal, nuke bailout plan | Top Dem warns coal export proposal hurts military Overnight Energy: Political employee to replace Interior inspector general amidst investigations| White House pauses plan to bail out coal and nuclear| Top Armed Services Dem warns Trump coal plan on military bases could hurt national security Top House Armed Services Dem says Trump coal export plan could hurt military MORE's travel following a report he used government helicopters to transport himself and his staffers between locations and events in close proximity to Washington, D.C.

"I'm calling on @Interior Inspector General to add @SecretaryZinke's use of taxpayer-funded helicopter rides to the ongoing investigation into his use of taxpayer-funded private jets. If he misused public funds, he should write the treasury a check for the full amount & apologize," Cantwell said in a tweet on Friday.  

Cantwell's call comes after Politico reported that travel logs show Zinke spent over $14,000 on the helicopter trips, which were provided by the U.S. Park Police. 

The Interior Department’s inspector general launched an investigation in October into Zinke’s use of chartered planes after it was reported Zinke and his aides had taken multiple flights on chartered or military planes to travel to his home state of Montana, as well as to travel to events between two Caribbean islands.

The office has not confirmed whether its probe involves Zinke's helicopter use. 

"We are taking a comprehensive look at the secretary's travel since he took office," Nancy DiPaolo, the inspector general's spokeswoman, told CNN.

Zinke's office is pushing back on the reports, calling them "garbage."

"After a congressional hearing, the Secretary attended an official Congressional event with the new Congressman from Montana (who replaced him) and the Speaker of the House before going to an emergency management briefing," Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift said.

"On the other occasion he did an aerial survey of a power line corridor, which was pending before the Department, while traveling back from meetings in southern Virginia in order to get to a meeting with the Vice President," she continued.