GOP lawmakers are requesting Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke provide members of the House with travel records for every Interior secretary dating back to Jan. 20, 2009.
Republican Utah Rep. Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, and Arkansas Rep. Bruce Westerman, chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, sent a letter to Zinke outlining the request Tuesday. The documents requested cover the entire terms of Zinke and both of former President Barack Obama’s Interior Secretaries: Ken Salazar and Sally Jewell.
“Ethical guidelines are on the books to promote transparency and responsible use of taxpayer dollars. Federal officials should be held to the highest ethical standard in adhering to these rules,” Bishop said in a statement. “When violations occur, the public deserves to know. When willful violations occur, there should be consequences.”
“When partisan opportunists conflate diligent conformance to scandal, no one wins,” Bishop added. “Let’s get all facts on the table, ensure taxpayers are protected and proceed with the peoples’ business.”
Members of the Trump administration are being scrutinized for private travel at the taxpayer expense since former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price spent $400,000 on private airfare.
Price resigned Friday.
The Associated Press revealed Monday that the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General is investigating Zinke for chartering three flights on the taxpayers dime, including one flight for over $12,000 from Las Vegas to his home state of Montana.
Zinke’s $12,000 flight was on a plane owned by oil and gas executives, The Washington Post reports.
The flight was chartered through a company, Choice Aviation, LLC., the Department of the Interior (DOI) has contracted with since 2014, however.
An ethics board cleared Zinke’s $12,000 flight beforehand, finding that no alternative existed that would allow him to meet his obligations as secretary. Zinke was scheduled to attend a meeting and signing ceremony, then speak before the Western Governors Association annual meeting the morning after his flight.
The Campaign for Government Accountability (CGA) believes Zinke’s trip was for ulterior motives.
“It doesn’t seem like the ethics officials knew the true reason behind the trip: to speak to the employees of a campaign donor,” CGA executive director Daniel Stevens said.
Zinke has called the investigation into his use of chartered planes “a little BS over travel.”
“Using tax dollars wisely and ethically is a greatest responsibility and it is at the heart of a good government,” Zinke said speaking Friday at The Heritage Foundation. “And there are times, however, when we have to utilize charter services because we often travel in areas and under circumstances that we don’t have other flight options.”
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