“‘Dinky’ Zinke used taxpayer-funded vehicles from the U.S. Park Police to help accommodate his political events schedule…the Ego continues to swell…along with the head!!!” – R.T.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke spent more than $14,000 on government helicopters this summer to take himself and staff to and from official events near Washington, D.C., in order to accommodate his attendance at a swearing-in ceremony for his replacement in Congress and a horseback ride with Vice President Mike Pence, according to previously undisclosed official travel documents.
The travel logs, released to POLITICO via a Freedom of Information Act request, show Zinke using taxpayer-funded vehicles from the U.S. Park Police to help accommodate his political events schedule.
In a case detailed in the new documents, Zinke ordered a U.S. Park Police helicopter to take him and his chief of staff, Scott Hommel, to an emergency management exercise in Shepherdstown, W.Va., on June 21.
Zinke’s staff justified the $8,000 flight by saying official business would prevent him leaving Washington before 2 p.m., too late to make the two-hour drive to the exercise, according to the documents.
The event that prevented Zinke from leaving before 2 p.m. was the swearing-in ceremony for Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.), according to Zinke’s official Interior calendar. Gianforte, who won a special election for Zinke’s old seat in May after assaulting a reporter, contributed along with his wife $15,800 to Zinke’s two congressional campaigns.
“Secretary Zinke’s last engagement in Washington D.C. is at 2 p.m.,” an Interior staffer wrote as justification for using the helicopter. “Driving to [the West Virginia event] would not enable him to be on time and fully participate as scheduled.”
Interior defended the trips.