Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke delivers a speech billed as "A Vision for American Energy Dominance" at the Heritage Foundation on September 29, 2017 in Washington, D.C.
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Questions surround Trump cabinet secretary’s use of helicopters


Most Secretaries of the Interior can go their entire tenures without generating national media attention or political controversies. Donald Trump’s Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, has only been on the job for nine months, but he can’t seem to stop generating national media attention and political controversies.

Politico reported yesterday on the Montana Republican’s latest mess.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke spent more than $14,000 on government helicopters this summer to take himself and staff to and from official events near Washington, D.C., in order to accommodate his attendance at a swearing-in ceremony for his replacement in Congress and a horseback ride with Vice President Mike Pence, according to previously undisclosed official travel documents.

The travel logs, released to POLITICO via a Freedom of Information Act request, show Zinke using taxpayer-funded vehicles from the U.S. Park Police to help accommodate his political events schedule.

There’s already an investigation underway into Zinke’s dubious use of public money for his official travel, and this won’t help.

But there’s no reason to stop there. There have been questions about Zinke’s wife saddling department staffers with extra work. The Federal Election Commission, meanwhile, has raised questions about a leadership PAC affiliated with Zinke during his time in Congress. Zinke also faced allegations about using unsavory lobbying tactics with U.S. senators.

And, of course, there’s that weird flag story: “A security staffer takes the elevator to the seventh floor, climbs the stairs to the roof and hoists a special secretarial flag whenever Zinke enters the building. When the secretary goes home for the day or travels, the flag – a blue banner emblazoned with the agency’s bison seal flanked by seven white stars representing the Interior bureaus – comes down.”

It’s worth emphasizing that Zinke has denied any wrongdoing, and it’s entirely possible the White House doesn’t care about the coverage. But if we’re creating a list of the most controversy-plagued members of Donald Trump’s cabinet, Zinke is probably near the top.

Questions surround Trump cabinet secretary's use of helicopters