Zinke linked to investment backed by Halliburton chairman: report

Zinke linked to investment backed by Halliburton chairman: report
© Greg Nash

Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: House Science Committee hits EPA with subpoenas | California sues EPA over Trump revoking emissions waiver | Interior disbands board that floated privatization at national parks Interior disbands advisory board that floated privatization at national parks Overnight Energy: Senate eyes nixing 'forever chemicals' fix from defense bill | Former Obama EPA chief named CEO of green group | Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics MORE is poised to benefit financially from a commercial development in his hometown of Whitefish, Mont., that's backed by the chairman of oil services giant Halliburton, according to a report by Politico.

Zinke and his wife are intimately involved with an investment that the former Montana congressman initially proposed in 2012, Politico reports. The project, a large commercial development on a former industrial site, is largely backed by a group funded by Halliburton Chairman David Lesar, and a foundation established by Zinke is playing a key role in the plans, according to the article.

Financial disclosure forms show that Lesar and his wife have political ties to the Zinkes, and in 2014 they gave $10,400 to Zinke’s first congressional campaign, the maximum legal amount, Politico reported.

The proposed development will include a spa, retail shops and a brewery, according to plans obtained and confirmed through Whitefish city planner David Taylor to Politico. Whitefish is a town popular for its ski resort and its proximity to Glacier National Park.

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The foundation owned by the Zinkes — Great Northern Veterans Peace Park Foundation — has donated land to the development to build a parking lot in an area that was previously slated to be a public park for the citizens of Whitefish, according to the report. Zinke's wife, Lola, is president of the foundation, a role she took on after her husband became Interior secretary.

The Zinkes also could benefit financially by improving the value of land they own that's adjacent to the proposed development, Politico reports.

In response to inquiries from Politico, Ryan Zinke said the foundation’s 2018 annual report to the state of Montana mislabeled him as an officer, and he pushed back on suggestions that the public park is no longer on the agenda, while adding that his wife's company was contacted by the developer backed by Lesar.

"The mission remains to provide a children’s sledding park and community open space in a setting that recognizes the contributions of the railroad and the veterans to the community," Zinke told Politico in a statement. "The subject LLC you mention has been in contact with Lola with the intent of expanding their parking requirements on park property."

"I understand a concept was provided but no formal proposal or documents have been submitted or agreed upon," he added. "I also understand by reading the paper is their proposal is supported by the City Council.”

An Interior Spokesperson separately told The Hill that the report that Zinke remained a board member of the foundation was inaccurate and provided copy of his resignation letter dated March 6, 2017. 

Additionally, a letter provided to the Hill from a representative of the Great Northern Veterans Peace Park Foundation confirmed that Zinke resigned last year and that the groups annual report "inadvertently" failed to remove him as director. 

"The Politico accusations that the secretary is still a member of the board are false. In accordance with all federal ethics guidelines, the secretary resigned from his position with the Great Northern Veterans Peace Park in March 2017," Interior Spokeswoman Heather Swift said in a statement.

This story was updated 3:17 p.m.