Horse News

Scandal-Plagued Secretary Zinke Headline Speaker at Koch-backed Event

Source: Western Values Project

“As Secretary Zinke panders to a room full of lobbyists, special interests, and political donors, let’s not forget he’s embroiled in his own ethics scandals…”

Today, as scandals and ethics investigations swirl around him, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will deliver the keynote address at the Koch-funded Steamboat Institute’s 10th Annual Freedom Conference & Festival. The Steamboat Institute is part of the State Policy Network, an alliance of groups “that act as incubators of conservative strategy” at the state level and receive funding from groups funded by the oil billionaire Koch brothers.

Western Values Project found that six of the major sponsors of the event have clear special interest connections, and numerous other speakers at the event come from organizations tied to the Koch brothers and other major Republican donors, including the conservative mega-donor-turned-political candidate Foster Friess.

“As Secretary Zinke panders to a room full of lobbyists, special interests, and political donors, let’s not forget he’s embroiled in his own ethics scandal with the chairman of a major oil corporation, while simultaneously overseeing the dismantling of America’s public lands and wildlife by giving handouts to these same jokers,” said Western Values Project Deputy Director Jayson O’Neill. “Why is Secretary Zinke making the time to meet with and pander to  this group of ideologically slated special interests, when his department refuses to listen to the overwhelming majority of the American public on national monuments, access to public lands, wildlife and a host of  other issues?

One of the event sponsors, Sierra Valley Almonds, is especially cozy with Secretary Zinke’s Interior Department. Sierra Valley Almonds’ owner, Jean Sagouspe, has previously donated to Zinke’s congressional campaign. He is also a former president of the Westlands Water District Board, a former client of the lobbyist-turned-Interior Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt. Bernhardt has come under scrutiny for his close relationship with Westlands after he continued to advise the company after he had been named to Donald Trump’s transition team. Secretary Zinke recently visited the project and has voiced his opposition to a water plan that Westlands is battling.

Interior also came under fire after Westlands received improperly allocated money for contractors from Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation. Sagouspe also sits on the board of the Steamboat Institute.

Another sponsor is former lobbyist Bill Thompson, one of Wyoming’s “top ten” lobbyists, who previously lobbied for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF), a key player in transporting coal from the Powder River Basin. BNSF has donated $19,160 to Ryan Zinke in political contributions, and also gave Zinke the land for his ill-fated Great Northern Veterans Peace Park that is the subject of the most recent Inspector General investigation. Thompson also lobbied for Chevron. Thompson and his wife also co-chaired Liz Cheney’s 2014 Senate campaign.

The conference is also sponsored by David Dacus, the CEO of Troy Construction, a pipeline construction company; Bill Bensler, the retired chairman of Flood and Peterson Insurance, whose clients included drilling contractors, refineries and pipeline companies; El Pomar Foundation, which has commissioned studies funded by oil and gas companies; and Irene Johnson, Director on the National Association of Royalty Owners, an organization that promotes mineral exploration and production. Johnson also manages her own “portfolio of family minerals.”

In addition to the event sponsors, four other speakers at the event have ties to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that has received hundreds of thousands in funding from ExxonMobil and millions from the Koch brothers’ family foundations. One of the Heritage Speakers is former Trump staffer Sebastian Gorka, who has ties to neo-Nazi extremists and was a pal of Zinke’s when he served in the administration.

Two of the other speakers at the event are from Turning Point USA, an organization whose mission is to “organize students to promote the principles of freedom, free markets, and limited government” and was started by conservative mega-donor Foster Friess, who has Koch brother ties and is currently running to be the Governor of Wyoming.

Previous analysis by Western Values Project found that in his seventeen months as Interior Secretary, Secretary ZInke has frequently made political trips and met with donors on numerous occasions.

Steamboat locals have spoken out about Zinke’s visit and Coloradans plan on holding a ‘Stand For Our Land’ rally outside of the event due to his policies and failed management that have negatively impacted America’s national parks and public lands.

15 replies »

  1. “The government, which was designed FOR the people, has got into the hands of the bosses and their employers, the special interests. An invisible empire has been set up above the forms of democracy.” – Woodrow Wilson

    My ancestors did not lay their lives on the line for corruption – they laid their lives on the line for FREEDOM of our democracy we call America.


  2. That was a well written piece of investigative journalism. I think the culture of corruption is the same in every field of entitlement and political theatre. The aims are the same, only the means differ.

    Liked by 1 person


    Especially SAD he was polite the male protester but vicious to the female one, both peaceful and both paid to attend. He has no idea if the woman served our country or not, I know many femal vets, many suffering PTSD from our actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. They don’t get their own flags and coins, and don’t get the opportunity to charge people money to hear them speak.


    • Makes me proud to think of 1400 people who cared enough to show up & protest! That must have put a little crimp into Zinke’s “appearance”!


      • Not really, he was up on the ski mountain (on USFS land, by the way, which is public land) and they closed all public access to the gondola and the trails on the mountain, so he wouldn’t have to see the crowds in town opposing him and his policies.

        So much for a public servant, whose wages we pay, who speaks on public lands and restricts all public access other than to those willing to pay hundreds of dollars (or as I heard, for $1,000 you could meet with him yourself) to hear the words from on high?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Was under the impression they were outside the building where he was speaking. Must have glossed over that part! Meeting him is highly over-priced! Actually listening to him is..

        Liked by 1 person


    Under Secretary Ryan Zinke, the Interior Department has rolled back transparency measures, keeping the American people in the dark about lands and resources that belong to them
    JUNE 26, 2018
    San Francisco, CA

    Earthjustice filed suit today on behalf of the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth in federal court in the Northern District of California to pry loose suspected new agency guidelines around transparency at the Department of Interior (DOI) put in place under Secretary Ryan Zinke. The lawsuit comes amid a deeply problematic culture of secrecy that has taken root in the Department of the Interior, keeping the American public in the dark about major decisions, important records, and meetings with industry that affect the lands and resources the agency holds in trust for the American people.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The video of his speech (which now seems to have been taken down) includes an introduction mentioning he was a star football player. Maybe that explains some of his “thinking” and anger management issues?

    Study links concussions to increased dementia risk decades later

    TUESDAY, Jan. 30, 2018 — A serious head injury may increase the risk for dementia even decades later, a new, large study suggests.

    A traumatic injury to the brain — such as a concussion from a sports collision or a motor vehicle accident — is already associated with short-term risk of dementia. But the new research finds that, although the risk decreases over time, it still continues for many years.

    “The main finding is the strong association between a previous traumatic brain injury and the risk of dementia,” said the study’s senior author, Peter Nordstrom.

    “The association is stronger for more severe or multiple traumatic brain injuries, and the association persists for more than 30 years after the trauma,” added Nordstrom, a professor of geriatric medicine at Umea University in Sweden.
    RELATED High school coaches, players know little about concussions

    This isn’t the first study to link traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, and later problems with memory and thinking. A number of studies have looked at professional athletes — such as football players, boxers and mixed martial arts fighters — and have found a connection to later serious brain troubles. These include dementia or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain disease.

    Concussions Exact Toll on Football Players Long After They Retire

    A leading researcher discusses how on-the-field head injuries can lead to neurological disorders in players even after they hang up their cleats

    High school players tend to be at a slightly higher risk when compared to college players, who then have more concussions compared to NFL players.

    We used to think that those most vulnerable were primarily the defensive backs, running backs and receivers. Those positions tend to receive the most jarring hits that can result in a loss of consciousness, amnesia and longer lasting [neurological] symptoms. But in terms of overall incidence, we are seeing that offensive and defensive linemen, as well as the tight ends and the quarterbacks, may be just as much at risk as other position players. A key part of that for the linemen is that they are impacting each other on nearly every play, though maybe not with same magnitude [of impact] as wide receivers. But this near-constant hitting may lower the threshold for when a good, heavy knock can concuss these linemen. Overall, we are finding that there is not as much disparity across positions as we had once thought.



    The Extinction Enablers
    JULY 27, 2018

    Being in thrall to extractive industries, it’s not surprising that profits take precedence for Zinke and Gianforte. But if we want to keep our precious and unique native species around for our kids and grandkids, it’s time to tell Montana’s extinction enablers in no uncertain terms “hands off the Endangered Species Act.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brilliant and frightening.

      And … animal agriculture is the second largest contributor to human-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions after fossil fuels and is a leading cause of deforestation, water and air pollution and biodiversity loss.


      • As widely practiced. There are great strides being made in smaller scale sustainable agriculture, so it’s important to use discernment when considering animal agriculture. Plenty of people are making changes but our government still skews the system by propping up big A agriculture through subsidies, price supports, and loans. Sound familiar?


  7. i believe that all TRUE leaders instinctively understand this principle
    The problem is…so do would-be dictators
    That’s why we can’t let up…ever

    Minority Rules: Scientists Discover Tipping Point

    Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society. The scientists, who are members of the Social Cognitive Networks Academic Research Center (SCNARC) at Rensselaer, used computational and analytical methods to discover the tipping point where a minority belief becomes the majority opinion. The finding has implications for the study and influence of societal interactions ranging from the spread of innovations to the movement of political ideals.


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