Ryan Zinke didn't need another controversy, but Donald Trump's Interior secretary appears to have found himself in the middle of a new one anyway. Politico reported this week:
A foundation established by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and headed by his wife is playing a key role in a real-estate deal backed by the chairman of Halliburton, the oil-services giant that stands to benefit from any of the Interior Department's decisions to open public lands for oil exploration or change standards for drilling.
A group funded by David Lesar, the Halliburton chairman, is planning a large commercial development on a former industrial site near the center of the Zinkes' hometown of Whitefish, a resort area that has grown increasingly popular with wealthy tourists. The development would include a hotel and retail shops. There also would be a microbrewery -- a business first proposed in 2012 by Ryan Zinke and for which he lobbied town officials for half a decade.
The Politico piece, which is worth reading in its entirety to appreciate all the details, went on to note that the Zinkes would benefit from the real-estate deal in a variety of ways, including the fact that they own land on the other side of the future development, and "if the new hotel, retail stores and microbrewery go through, real estate agents say, the Zinke-owned land next door would stand to increase substantially in value."
So to recap, the cabinet secretary's wife runs a foundation; the foundation is backing a project launched by the chairman of Halliburton; the cabinet secretary stands to benefit personally from the project; and Halliburton stands to benefit from decisions made by the cabinet secretary.
Politico talked to Marilyn Glynn, who led the Office of Government Ethics in the Bush/Cheney era, who said all of this appears inappropriate and should prompt Zinke to recuse himself from Halliburton-related policy decisions.
Glynn added, "In a previous administration, whether Bush or Obama, you'd never run across something like this.... Nobody would be engaging in business deals" with executives whose companies they regulate.
Of course, if Zinke's record were otherwise spotless, and there were no other concerns about his record on ethics, it might be easier to overlook these revelations.
But then we're reminded of his actual record.