Horse News

Horse Slaughter Proponent “Dinky” Zinke Dodges Slings and Arrows to avoid Pruitt’s Fate

Story by Michael Doyle, E&E News reporter as published on Greenwire

Western Values Project has issued what it calls a “side-by-side analysis of Pruitt’s and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s numerous scandals.”

“Yes, I pushed legislation to open up a Horse Slaughter plant in Montana in 2009!”

The critics who saw EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt toppled by ethics complaints have sought to deploy similar tactics against Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Consider Zinke’s socks.

On June 26, Zinke hiked at Mount Rushmore National Memorial with governors from Western states. Using his official Twitter account, Zinke posted a picture of his pair of socks bearing the likeness of President Trump, as well as Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.

The tweet was conveyed to some 80,000 followers of Zinke’s account. These included the Campaign for Accountability, which brought to Zinke’s attention his apparent violation of the Hatch Act. The law prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity while on duty and is enforced by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.

“While on duty or in the workplace, employees may not: wear, display, or distribute items with the slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ or any other materials from President Trump’s 2016 or 2020 campaigns; use hashtags such as #MAGA or #ResistTrump in social media posts or other forums; or display non-official pictures of President Trump,” the office wrote in May.

Zinke deleted the offending tweet and apologized, but that didn’t end the matter.

On June 27, the Campaign for Accountability filed a four-page complaint with both the Office of Special Counsel and Interior’s Office of Inspector General. In doing so, the private watchdog group explicitly tried to tie the socks into a broader and darker ethics narrative.

“Secretary Zinke continues to play fast and loose with federal ethics laws,” Campaign for Accountability Executive Director Daniel Stevens said in a release that urged officials to “investigate Secretary Zinke’s conduct and sanction him for violating the Hatch Act.”

While socks seem utterly trivial, the use of the phrase “continues to play fast and loose” conveys the impression of “yet-another controversy,” which in time can accumulate to the kind of unbearable weight that pulled down Pruitt yesterday (Climatewire, July 6).

Cognizant of the power of political narrative and acutely attuned to Zinke’s potential missteps, congressional Democrats and environmental groups have filed a number of complaints against the former Navy SEAL officer. Some, like the Western Values Project, also amplify the narrative by routinely characterizing Zinke as “embattled.”

Driving the narrative point home, the Western Values Project today issued what it called a “side-by-side analysis of Pruitt’s and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s numerous scandals.”

Even Pruitt’s own communications team tried peddling negative stories about Zinke as a way to distract attention from their floundering boss, according to a report in The Atlantic.

The ethics complaints themselves have had mixed results, but they are a bell that can’t be unrung.

In an email today, Stevens said that “we did not get a response” to the latest Hatch Act complaint, but he defended the request.

“Public officials are supposed to follow the law,” Stevens said. “If Secretary Zinke adhered to the law, there would be no need to file a complaint.”

Last September, the Campaign for Accountability filed an Office of Special Counsel complaint over Zinke’s 2017 speech before the Vegas Golden Knights professional ice hockey team. The team is owned by William Foley, a businessman whose campaign contributions have included thousands of dollars in support for Zinke’s 2014 congressional race.

The OSC found nothing wrong with Zinke’s speech (Greenwire, June 6).

“There is no evidence or allegation … that Secretary Zinke gave a political speech or otherwise engaged in political activity during this event,” the OSC’s two-page letter stated.

The OSC’s findings followed an earlier report by the Office of Inspector General, requested by congressional Democrats, that concluded Zinke’s use of chartered aircraft last year “generally followed relevant law, policy, rules, and regulations.”

“The report shows that in every instance reviewed, the secretary’s staff consulted with and sought prior approval from the career ethics officials and travel lawyers, and that we follow their expert advice,” Interior spokesperson Heather Swift said.

Interior’s OIG is in the midst of undertaking a “preliminary review” of Zinke’s “purported business activities” that involve a foundation now headed by Zinke’s wife and his possible role in a real estate deal backed by Halliburton Co. Chairman David Lesar.

10 replies »

  1. The Plot to Loot America’s Wilderness
    A little-known bureaucrat named James Cason is reshaping the Department of the Interior.
    By Adam Federman
    November 16, 2017

    One day in Mid-March, James Cason, the associate deputy secretary at the Department of the Interior, convened an impromptu meeting of the senior staff of the Bureau of Land Management. Cason, whose office is on the sixth floor, rarely wandered the halls, and some career civil servants still had never met him.

    A soft-spoken and unassuming man, Cason has cycled in and out of Republican administrations since the early 1980s and has largely avoided public attention. But people who have worked with him know him as a highly effective administrator and a disciple of some of the department’s most notorious anti-environment leaders in previous years—a “hatchet man,” in the words of one former DOI employee who worked with him during the George W. Bush administration.
    This article was reported in partnership with the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute.
    About 30 employees were ushered into a conference room, where Cason announced that Kristin Bail, acting director of the BLM, would be replaced by Mike Nedd. The move itself wasn’t all that surprising: Bail, who came from a conservation background, had been appointed in the final days of the Obama administration to serve in a temporary capacity; Nedd, who had been assistant director for energy, minerals, and realty management since 2007, was viewed as better positioned to implement the new administration’s pro-industry agenda.

    According to two people who were present, he delivered what appeared to be hastily prepared remarks thanking Bail for her service but telling her that she was no longer needed in the position. One employee, who has since left the DOI, said it was unclear whether Bail had been told beforehand of her demotion. “It was one of the most awkward, disrespectful things I’ve ever seen,” the former employee said. The spectacle amounted to a kind of public dismissal—and a warning shot. The meeting ended as abruptly as it had begun, with employees left staring at their seats. By the end of the day, Bail was carrying her things out of her office in a box and looking for another place to sit.

    Bail’s transfer was the opening salvo in an unprecedented restructuring of the DOI. Three months later, in what some department staffers now call the “Thursday-night massacre,” Cason sent memos to more than two dozen of the DOI’s highest-ranking civil servants informing them of reassignments; they had 15 days to accept the new positions or retire.

    Cason, who once described himself as the department’s “regulatory czar,” has also overseen the dismantling of rules governing energy development on public lands. The DOI is poised to open up millions of acres to drilling and mining—from Utah’s red-rock country to the frigid, perilous waters off Alaska’s coast—while stripping away basic environmental protections and reducing transparency. Across the Trump administration, the new mantra is “energy dominance”—a vision of the world in which the United States will amplify its influence with a dramatic expansion of oil, gas, and coal production, whatever the environmental costs.

    “From what I can tell, Jim Cason is running the show,” the former employee said. “I think he’s overseeing everything.”
    But unlike Griles, who was sentenced to 10 months in prison after lying to Congress about his ties to the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Cason has largely avoided the public eye.


  2. JAMES CASON is serving as the Associate Deputy Secretary of the Department of Interior.
    In 2001, under James Cason’s leadership, a computer system at the Interior Department controlling trust fund payments to American Indians was shut down. As a result, $15 million in payments went unpaid, putting the “health and livelihood of thousands of individual Indians throughout the country in disarray.”

    Ryan Zinke, in an April 2017 memo, told all Assistant Secretaries at the Interior Department to report to James Cason on “‘proposed decisions’ that have ‘nationwide, regional, or statewide impacts,’” and required Cason to sign off on such decisions before they can be implemented. In the same memo, Zinke also demanded that “Department of Interior grants of more than $100,000 be reviewed” by Cason. Critics have observed that this memo “greatly expanded” James Cason’s role “in the awarding of grants and in policy decision-making.” Although these procedures are supposed to be temporary, the memo didn’t provide an end date.

    Ryan Zinke, on April 12, 2017, “sent a memo to the Assistant Secretaries of the Department of the Interior directing them to ensure that all bureau heads and office directors report to” Acting Deputy Secretary James Cason on all “‘proposed decisions’ that have ‘nationwide, regional, or statewide impacts,’ and that decisions may not be made until the Acting Deputy Secretary has ‘reviewed the report and provided clearance.’” [Raul Grijalva and A. Donald McEachin to Ryan Zinke, 05/02/17]


      • Grandma Gregg, it landed in the moderation box so I posted it again (and again) and broke some of the information into smaller bite size pieces.


  3. “Now he’s back in a position that doesn’t require Senate approval”

    CASON’S return to the DOI doesn’t surprise Jim Cubie, who was chief counsel to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in 1989, when Leahy oversaw an Agriculture Committee hearing on Cason’s nomination to a top environmental post in the George H.W. Bush administration.
    Cason’s track record so alarmed the committee that he was eventually forced to withdraw his name from consideration.
    Now he’s back in a position that doesn’t require Senate approval. “He’ll do a lot of damage,” Cubie predicted.


  4. A look at Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh’s notable opinions
    The Associated Press


    In this 2014 opinion, Kavanaugh argued that the Environmental Protection Agency must take monetary costs into consideration when deciding whether to regulate emissions from power plants.

    The appeals court affirmed the emissions standard set by the EPA in 2012 for mercury and other pollutants from coal- and oil-fired electric utility steam generating units.

    One of the key issues in the case was whether EPA was required to consider the costs imposed by the rule. The majority of the court agreed with the EPA that it did not have to consider the costs.

    In his dissent, Kavanaugh wrote that it came as a “surprise” that the EPA did not consider costs.

    “In my view, it is unreasonable for EPA to exclude considerations of costs in determining whether it is ‘appropriate’ to impose significant new regulations on electric utilities,” Kavanaugh wrote.

    “To be sure, EPA could conclude that the benefits outweigh the costs. But the problem here is that EPA did not even consider the costs.”


  5. Bruce Babbitt was then Secretary of the Interior

    From Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)

    Horses to Slaughter Anatomy of a Coverup within the BLM (April 1997)
    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) within the Department of Interior is the agency mandated by law “to protect and manage wild free-roaming horses…as components of the public lands.” Yet, the BLM has tolerated and in some instances facilitated the routine and illegal trafficking of wild horses to slaughter. The agency has obstructed efforts by its own law enforcement officers to expose commercial theft of wild horses, fraudulent adoption schemes and fictitious “sanctuary” herds not only to avoid embarrassment but also to maintain the flow of horses off the range.

    Click to access 1997_horses_to_slaughter.pdf


    • Had the Secretary of Interior been willing to let the investigation continue and clean up the BLM Wild Horse & Burro Program in 1997 it might have curtailed at least some of the corruption.
      As it stands right now, it seems to have spread…like a virus

      OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR Bruce Babbitt

      Trump Is Vandalizing Our Wild HeritageTrump Is Vandalizing Our Wild Heritage
      By Bruce Babbitt
      Bruce Babbitt was the secretary of interior from 1993 to 2001 and the Democratic governor of Arizona from 1978 to 1987.

      Mr. Trump’s foray into the West to fan the flames of his war against the environment could mark a turning point, however. Imagine that the president, as he peers down from Air Force One at the magnificent landscapes spreading out below, could hear and heed the words of Theodore Roosevelt resonating from his 1903 visit to the Grand Canyon:
      “Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it; not a bit. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children and your children’s children and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American, if he can travel at all, should see.”
      We must rise up, speak out and, in the spirit of Roosevelt, demand an end to this desecration of our national heritage.


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