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Trump's Interior secretary can't seem to stay out of trouble

If Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is trying to avoid negative headlines, he's failing spectacularly.
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.
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.

As 2017 came to a close, the Interior Department published a "comprehensive list of accomplishments" in its first year under Secretary Ryan Zinke's leadership, which according to the cabinet agency, demonstrated "a conservation stewardship legacy" that's "second only to Teddy Roosevelt."

The Huffington Post took a closer look at the list and found that Zinke and his team were taking credit for developments they had little, if anything, to do with.

Yesterday, the Interior secretary faced more bad news, as NBC News reported.

Nine of the 12 members of the National Park System Advisory Board have resigned, saying the Interior Department has ignored it since President Donald Trump took office a year ago, the board's chairman said Tuesday.In an interview with Alaska Public Radio, the board's chairman since 2010, Tony Knowles, a former Democratic governor of Alaska, confirmed a report in The Washington Post that he and eight other members of the advisory panel quit on Monday out of frustration that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke hadn't met with them even once.

"The department showed no interest in learning about or continuing to use the forward-thinking agenda of science" when it comes to "the effect of climate change, protection of the ecosystems, education," Knowles told Alaska Public Radio.

This, of course, comes on the heels of an unrelated controversy in which Zinke agreed to a special, arbitrary exemption for Florida from the administration's coastal-drilling plan -- all while gushing about Gov. Rick Scott (R), the White House's preferred Senate candidate in the Sunshine State this year.

That followed a separate story about Zinke's mistakenly using wildfire preparedness funds to pay for one of the secretary's unrelated helicopter tours. (There’s already an investigation underway into Zinke’s dubious use of public money for his official travel, and this won’t help.)

But as regular readers know, there's no reason to stop there.

There have also 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.