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

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

Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellData privacy: Consumers want it, businesses need it — it's time our government delivers it Don't revive logging in national forests Top Finance Dem offers bill to help those repaying student loans save for retirement MORE (D-Wash.) has called for an expanded probe into Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeSenate panel approves Interior nominee over objections from Democrats Interior's border surge puts more officers in unfamiliar role Not 'if' but 'when' is the next Deepwater Horizon spill? 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.