Horse News

Scandals swirl around Interior Secretary Ryan “Dinky” Zinke as he tours Colorado

Source: Western Values Project


Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has been traveling the great state of Colorado this week and on Friday, August 10, he will deliver an address at the Koch-backed Steamboat Institute’s 10th Annual Freedom Conference & Festival. Since Zinke’s confirmation as Interior Secretary on March 1, 2017, his scandals, taxpayer-funded travel, catering to special interests, prolific fundraising appearances, and other political maneuvering have raised as many eyebrows as they have ethical and legal questions. His keynote address at this conference further underscores the extent to which Zinke is cozy with special interests, lobbyists and mega-donors. While this memo covers some of Zinke’s more recent scandals, view his full profile at


Sweetheart Land Deal with Halliburton Oil Executive and Personal Business Issues:

  • Interior’s inspector general has opened an investigation into Ryan Zinke after it was discovered that his family’s foundation is helping a Halliburton-backed developer develop  land that had originally been set aside for a veterans park for public use for a commercial development. [POLITICO, 6/19/18; POLITICO, 7/18/18] Zinke had a meeting in his official office and gave a Lincoln Memorial tour to private developers while the developers were engaged in a land deal with Secretary Zinke’s wife in his hometown of Whitefish, Montana that stood to enrich Zinke’s family. One of the developers in attendance was the chairman of Halliburton, an oil and gas multinational corporation that drills on the public lands Zinke oversees as Interior Secretary. [POLITICO, 6/21/18]
  • In particular, the IG will be investigating whether Zinke “colluded to have the chairman of Halliburton, one of the leading companies with business before the department, build him” a microbrewery. [POLITICO, 7/18/18; POLITICO, 8/2/18]
  • Even if it does turn out that there is no established link between the Zinkes and the proposed microbrewery, if the development comes to fruition ethics problems are still rampant as the property values of land that the Zinkes own would increase. [POLITICO, 8/2/18]
  • In other recent reporting, it was revealed that Zinke’s former business partner was convicted of Medicare fraud. [POLITICO, 8/2/18]

Zinke’s Lack of Transparency:

  • Zinke promised under oath to the Senate Appropriations Committee that he intended to be the ‘most transparent Interior, at least in his lifetime.’ [Western Values Project, You Tube]
  • Zinke’s official calendars are missing several meetings the secretary had, after CNN and the Center for Western Priorities “separately reviewed Zinke’s calendars and compared them to email conversations between Zinke and his scheduling aide,” which “found several examples the secretary’s calendar not including a full list of attendees or agenda items.” [CNN, 7/20/18]
  • Zinke uses a private email address for official business. [Center for Western Priorities, 3/15/18]
  • Meanwhile, after Interior failed to respond to multiple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests related to lobbyist-turned Interior Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt’s communications with former clients, Western Values Project filed suit to get the documents. [Western Values Project, 7/30/18]
  • While Zinke claimed that oil had nothing to do the reduction the largest area of protected public lands in U.S. history with the reduction of two national monuments in Utah. Documents and emails obtained by The New York Times prove that oil was central to the decision on Bears Ears National Monument. [The New York Times, 3/2/18]

Politicking, Dining and Vacationing on Taxpayer Dime:

  • Zinke chartered a plane owned “by the executives of a Wyoming oil-and-gas exploration firm” which “cost taxpayers $12,375.” [The Washington Post, 9/28/17]
  • An Inspector General report investigating Zinke’s travel found that there is “absent or incomplete documentation for several pertinent trips,” it is difficult to “distinguish between personal, political and official travel,” and that there is scant financial justification for the travel. [Office of Inspector General, US Department of the Interior, 4/16/18; The Washington Post, 4/16/18]
  • Zinke attended a Virgin Islands Republican Party fundraiser on taxpayers’ dime, which “was one of more than a half-dozen times Zinke has met with big donors or political groups while on department-paid trips.” [POLITICO, 10/5/17]
  • A PAC associated with Zinke apparently continued to fundraise well into his tenure as a Cabinet official. The Federal Election Commission asked the PAC — SEAL PAC — to account for more than $600,000 in political contributions from January to June 2017. [POLITICO, 4/2/18]
  • At an unknown cost to taxpayers, Zinke brought his security team on his vacation to Greece and Turkey. [POLITICO, 3/21/18]
  • Zinke and his wife have used his post for exclusive tours and patronage for friends, including private tours of areas closed to the public, exclusive visits to the White House, and personalized trips to national parks. [The Washington Post, 5/18/18]
  • Secretary Zinke and his wife were invited to dine with ConocoPhillips SVP Andrew Lund at a Washington DC steakhouse as the company was pushing to drill in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. [Western Values Project, 3/28/18]

Zinke’s Failed Management:

  • Interior’s Inspector General released a report on Zinke’s politically motivated efforts to reassign career civil servants at the department, finding that there was no plan or reason for the reassignments. [Office of Inspector General, US Department of the Interior, 4/10/18]
  • Zinke tried “to use wildfire preparedness funds to pay for an unrelated helicopter tour of Nevada.” [Newsweek, 12/29/17]
  • Zinke called civil servants ‘serpents’ when suggesting he’d like to privatize campgrounds across the nation’s national parks. [E&E News, 6/6/17]
  • He told an oil industry group that he had ‘30 percent of the crew that’s not loyal to the flag.’ [Associated Press, 9/26/17]
  • Zinke reorganized the popular Superintendent of Yellowstone National Park, Dan Wenk, out of a job at the request of a Montana dark money front group where his former campaign staffer works. [Mountain Journal, 6/14/18]
  • Zinke has advocated for privatization of the campgrounds in our national parks. [Western Values Project, 6/7/17]
  • Once a supporter of the permanent authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Zinke is advocating for a budget that nearly zeroes out the popular park and public access acquisition program. [Outside, 6/6/18]

Zinke has Handed the Keys to Interior to Special Interest Lobbyists:

    • Zinke apologized to a mining firm executive after he complained about federal pollution rules, in “another example of the deference the Trump administration gives to excavation companies.” [The Washington Post, 3/28/18]
    • Zinke met with extractive industry executives at least 33 times in the ten months he was Interior Secretary in 2017, averaging at least 3.3 meetings per month. [Western Values Project, 3/28/18]
    • After the Interior Department accidentally released thousands of pages in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that were supposed to be redacted, the revealed documents showed that as Secretary Ryan Zinke conducted his national monuments review, his staff “rejected material that would justify keeping protections in place” and instead looked for evidence that supported rolling back public lands protections.The monuments review resulted in the largest public lands protections rollback in U.S. history. [The Washington Post, 7/23/18]
    • Two new members Zinke recently added to a key committee that regulates and sets the price for drilling and mining on our public lands represent special interests and have extensive ties to industry and lobbyist organizations. [Western Values Project, 6/6/18]
    • Scott Cameron, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of the Assistant Secretary – Policy, Management, and Budget, previous employer, Tuknik Government Services, has received a total of $3,724,364 in contracts from the Interior Department since he began working at the department. [Department of Influence]
    • In October 2017, the Bureau of the Land Management announced a change of administrative opinion that could make millions for Cadiz Inc., a recent client of former lobbyist and current Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. [High Country News, 10/17/17]
    • Secretary Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department is currently being sued by the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes for refusing to make a decision on allowing the tribes to open a new casino in Connecticut. The delay in approving the new casino “stands to benefit politically connected gambling giant MGM Resorts International,” which is planning on opening a competing casino nearby. [POLITICO, 2/1/18]
    • James Cason is Associate Deputy Secretary at the Interior Department. He previously worked at consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. On November 30, 2017, Booz Allen Hamilton received a $63,072 contract from the Interior Department. [Western Values Project, 3/1/18]
    • Interior officials met with Western Energy Alliance (WEA) prior to the Bureau of Land Management issuing an Instruction Memorandum to ‘simplify and streamline the leasing process,’ limit public participation, and end Master Leasing Plans. The day after the memorandum, WEA dropped two of their three counts against Interior. [Western Values Project, 3/28/18]
    • Secretary Zinke appointed WEA representatives to the Royalty Policy Committee after he solicited requests for members during a April 2017 meeting with the trade group. [Western Values Project, 3/28/18]
    • American Petroleum Institute sent a list of 53 rules they’d like repealed, including a priority target of the Methane and Waste Prevention rule that Interior has since suspended. [Western Values Project, 3/28/18]
    • Since the suspension of the Methane and Waste Prevention rule, tax royalties totalling over $46 million have already gone up in smoke. Those are royalties that are shared with state and local governments. [Western Values Project, 5/14/14] [Federal Register, 12/08/17]
    • Read more about Zinke’s and his political appointees’ special interest connections at

13 replies »

  1. Does this definition of political corruption ring any bells?

    Political corruption is the use of powers by government officials or their network contacts for illegitimate private gain. Forms of corruption vary, but include bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, parochialism, patronage, influence peddling, graft, and embezzlement. Corruption may facilitate criminal enterprise such as drug trafficking, money laundering, and human trafficking, though is not restricted to these activities. Misuse of government power for other purposes, such as repression of political opponents and general police brutality, is also considered political corruption.


  2. Utah wild horses ran into barbed wire during aerial roundup; four animals with pre-existing injuries were euthanized

    A federal wild horse roundup in Utah’s West Desert is drawing fire after four injured horses were put down and photos surfaced showing helicopter wranglers swooping down as some of the galloping animals ran into barbed wire fences.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gus Warr, longtime head manager of the Utah wild horse and burro program is/was at the Bible Springs Utah capture. Let him and other BLM leaders know how you feel.

      Warr, Victor (Gus)
      Aug 9 at 11:54 AM
      I am currently out of the office on the Bible Springs Comples – Sulphur wild horse gather. I’ll get back with your email as soon as possible. Thx!
      Wild Horse & Burro Specialist / Utah WH&B Program Manager
      BLM-Utah State Office (UT-933)
      440 W. 200 S., Suite 500 -Salt Lake City, Utah 84101-1345
      Desk: 801.539.4057
      Cell: 801.824.1632
      Fax: 801.539.4074

      Gus Warr, BLM Utah Wild Horse and Burro Program Manager
      Ed Roberson, BLM Utah State Director
      Brian Steed, BLM Deputy Director
      Rich Cardinale, BLM Acting Deputy Director
      Jeff Brune, BLM Acting Chief of Staff
      Kristin Bail, BLM Assistant Director
      Howard Cantor, BLM Denver Director
      Christopher McAlear, BLM Assistant Director
      Kimberly Finch, BLM Utah Acting External Affairs Chief
      Abbie Jossie, BLM Utah Deputy State Director, Natural Resources
      Kent Hoffman, BLM Utah Deputy State Director, Lands & Minerals
      Joe Mendez, BLM Utah Deputy State Director
      Anita Bilbao, BLM Utah Associate State Director
      Ahmed Mohsen, BLM Utah District Manager amohsen@blm.go


      • The word “gather” is such a polite word it doesn’t belong in the description of these terror raids. We gather together in Thanksgiving, or prayer, not to annihilate an innocent and supposedly protected species. I doubt those shell-shocked dead foals would call it a “gather” so we should’t accept that language either. It is a raid, pure and simple, and for those on the receiving end it can feel only like a terrorist strike.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. American Wild Horse Campaign

    The Bible Spring Complex/Sulphur HMA roundup officially ended yesterday with 21 more horses captured and removed. The final number captured and removed was 250, and there were 4 deaths


  4. American Wild Horse Campaign

    Yesterday, the BLM captured 57 horses from the Four Mile Herd Management Area — with NO PUBLIC OBSERVERS PRESENT. The agency had told the public that the roundup was cancelled for the day, however, they went ahead and rounded up more horses yesterday than any other day of the roundup — out of public view.

    How’s that for transparency? The roundup continues today – we’ll keep you posted.


  5. American Wild Horse Campaign
    August 6

    Yesterday the BLM rounded up and removed 22 wild horses from the southern portion of the Sulphur HMA. Many of the runs were chaotic. There was an abundance of cows grazing within the federally-designated wild horse habitat, so many, that a few cows got rounded up in the process. The release of the cows from the trap where these horses had just lost their freedom symbolizes the injustice of this program.

    According to the BLM’s Environmental Assessment, the agency allows the equivalent of 1,261 cow/calf pairs to graze during the spring and summer months within this HMA. Meanwhile, they only allow 165-250 wild horses. In the entire state of Utah, the BLM allows livestock to graze on 22 million acres, and only 2 million of those are also designated as wild horse habitat


  6. Zinke’s Move to Defile the Izembek – Andy Kerr’s blog regarding Z’s road thru a wildlife refuge in Alaska! Yet another attempt to eradicate wildlife and their habitat! Worth reading – and adding to the long, long list of Zinkes corrupt moves!


  7. “Gather” goes right before the listing for “Harvest” in the wild horse hater dictionary – as in ways to dumb down the public’s awareness of whats being done to all our wild animals! I really wonder WHY so many politicians have such a fear of nature & wildlife. I guess its because they see it as out of their control – another quirk of the whole human-dominant mindset.


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