Newly released records shed light on the outsize profile Lola Zinke has established compared with the typical Cabinet secretary’s spouse.
Secretary Ryan Zinke bringing his wife Lola along on official trips isn’t illegal as long as the government doesn’t pay for her expenses. | Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s wife has frustrated department staffers by saddling them with extra work when she traveled with him on official business, according to new records that a liberal watchdog group says uncover the potential misuse of government resources.
The records document Lola Zinke’s last-minute requests to join high-level dinners and additions to the guest list for a conservative group’s event near their home in Southern California earlier this year. The Western Values Project filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit last month to force Interior to release more than 100 pages of documents related to Lola Zinke’s trips with her husband and interactions with Interior staff.
Shared first with POLITICO, the documents shed new light on the outsize profile Lola Zinke has established compared with the typical Cabinet secretary’s spouse, including her dictating people to invite to a town hall hosted by the conservative Young America’s Foundation for her husband.
New emails also reveal a celebratory dinner the Zinkes attended that was organized in part by a major GOP donor who gave heavily to Ryan Zinke’s congressional campaigns. And they show Interior staffers had to accommodate a last-minute request for her to join the secretary at an official dinner with Alaska’s governor. The records cover two trips Lola Zinke joined in the first three months of her husband’s tenure as well as some other interactions with Interior staff, such as coordinating her attendance at a White House briefing for Cabinet members’ spouses.
While the department says Lola Zinke paid her own way, the records show Interior used staff time to coordinate some of her activities while traveling with her husband. And the trips gave her access to high-level politicians and GOP activists and donors who could benefit her as a political operator in her own right.
“These emails show that the leadership at the Department of Interior treats basic ethical standards like an inconvenience,” Western Values Project Executive Director Chris Saeger said. “If Secretary Zinke is willing to be so sloppy with something as elementary as this, then God only knows how they’re handling big decisions about energy and public lands behind closed doors.”
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The article states, “The group’s donors have reportedly included the Koch brothers, among others” which shows one of the many collusions of Zinke who is responsible to PROTECT our resources… not SELL them.
NPR (excerpts from interview)
‘Dark Money’: Koch Brothers’ Donations Push Their Political Agenda
January 19, 2016
Critics of the Koch brothers will argue that they are spending lots of money in the political process to create a political and regulatory environment that’s good for their business interests, that it’s all about making more money for them.
So in describing this 2009 meeting and other meetings, you’ve given us an idea of where the money comes from. Where does it go?
It goes through a network of groups, organizations, mostly nonprofit groups.
It’s very hard to keep up with all the things it does. But it encompasses both charitable groups and more political groups. The charitable groups create position papers. The political groups mobilize voters and advocate for positions
State Efforts To ‘Reclaim’ Our Public Lands Traced To Koch-Fueled ALEC
By Jessica Goad and Tom Kenworthy via CAP
Despite the many problems that states and municipalities face today — from budget shortfalls to unemployment — seven western states have decided to embark on unconstitutional and quixotic battles attempting to force the federal government to turn millions of acres of public lands over to the states. Doing so, however, would result in the eventual exploitation for private profits of these beautiful parks, refuges, forests, and other lands because the leaders driving such efforts would prefer to see quick economic gains from resource extraction rather than prioritizing these areas’ more sustainable economic uses such as recreation.
Rather than being managed so that all Americans can enjoy them, turning our public lands over to states would result in their management on the whims of governors and state legislatures, who in the West are often quite conservative and tend to ideologically favor limited regulation and private profits. According to one state lands commissioner, these bills would be “catastrophic” to the public lands that Americans know and love.
A large proportion of what are now our public lands were “claimed” from the indigenous peoples by Spain and England, who subsequently sold them to the U.S. Government. The states did not exist who claim now to “own” these lands (or its wildlife), nor did they every pay for them. In addition, treaty after treaty after treaty were disregarded, broken, or corrupted. In the interests of who has prior “rights” it is worth arguing these lands should be returned to the native peoples who could then keep or sell them as they wish. We know now there were indigenous cultures coast to coast on this continent, reaching back at least 40,000 years, making any “states’ rights” claims laughable in a land whose government isn’t even 250 years old.
Does the Federal Advisory Committee Act also apply to the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board?
“Trump wildlife protection board stuffed with trophy hunters
WASHINGTON — A new U.S. advisory board created to help rewrite federal rules for importing the heads and hides of African elephants, lions and rhinos is stacked with trophy hunters, including some members with direct ties to President Donald Trump and his family.
A review by The Associated Press of the backgrounds and social media posts of the 16 board members appointed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke indicates they will agree with his position that the best way to protect critically threatened or endangered species is by encouraging wealthy Americans to shoot some of them.
One appointee co-owns a private New York hunting preserve with Trump’s adult sons. The oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., drew the ire of animal rights activists after a 2011 photo emerged of him holding a bloody knife and the severed tail of an elephant he killed in Zimbabwe.
The first meeting of the International Wildlife Conservation Council was scheduled for Friday at the Interior Department’s headquarters in Washington. Council members aren’t being paid a salary, though the department has budgeted $250,000 in taxpayer funds for travel expenses, staff time and other costs.
Trump has decried big-game hunting as a “horror show” in tweets. But under Zinke, a former Montana congressman who is an avid hunter, the Fish and Wildlife Service has quietly moved to reverse Obama-era restrictions on bringing trophies from African lions and elephants into the United States.
Asked about the changes during a congressional hearing Thursday, Zinke said no import permits for elephants have been issued since the ban was lifted earlier this month. The Fish and Wildlife Service said permits for lion trophies have been issued since October, when imports from Zimbabwe and Zambia were first allowed, though they could not immediately provide a number for how many.
A licensed two-week African hunting safari can cost more than $50,000 per person, not including airfare, according to advertised rates. Advocates say money helps support habitat conservation and anti-poaching efforts in some of the world’s poorest nations, and provides employment for local guides and porters.
In a statement last year, Zinke said, “The conservation and long-term health of big game crosses international boundaries. This council will provide important insight into the ways that American sportsmen and women benefit international conservation from boosting economies and creating hundreds of jobs to enhancing wildlife conservation.”
But environmentalists and animal welfare advocates say tourists taking photos generate more economic benefit, and hunters typically target the biggest and strongest animals, weakening already vulnerable populations.
There’s little indication dissenting perspectives will be represented on the Trump administration’s conservation council. Appointees include celebrity hunting guides, representatives from rifle and bow manufacturers, and wealthy sportspeople who boast of bagging the coveted “Big Five” — elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and Cape buffalo.
Most are high-profile members of Safari Club International and the National Rifle Association, groups that have sued the Fish and Wildlife Service to expand the list of countries from which trophy kills can be legally imported.
They include the Safari Club’s president, Paul Babaz, a Morgan Stanley investment adviser from Atlanta, and Erica Rhoad, a lobbyist and former GOP congressional staffer who is the NRA’s director of hunting policy.
Bill Brewster is a retired Oklahoma congressman and lobbyist who served on the boards of the Safari Club and the NRA. An NRA profile lauded Brewster and his wife’s five decades of participation and support for hunting, and his purchase of a lifetime NRA membership for his grandson when the boy was 3 days old.
Also on the board is Gary Kania, vice president of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, a group that lobbies Congress and state governments on issues affecting hunters and fishermen.
Zinke described the purpose of the council as representing the “strong partnership” between federal wildlife officials and those who hunt or profit from hunting. Council paperwork said the panel’s mission was “to increase public awareness domestically regarding conservation, wildlife law enforcement, and economic benefits that result from United states citizens traveling to foreign nations to engage in hunting.”
In its charter, the council’s listed duties include “recommending removal of barriers to the importation into the United States of legally hunted wildlife” and “ongoing review of import suspension/bans and providing recommendations that seek to resume the legal trade of those items, where appropriate.”
In a letter this week, a coalition of more than 20 environmental and animal welfare groups objected that the one-sided makeup of the council could violate the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires government boards to be balanced in terms of points of view and not improperly influenced by special interests. The groups said they nominated a qualified representative, but Zinke didn’t select him. …”