Emails shed light on early Zinke ethics concerns

Sep 12, 2023

Newly released emails show Interior Department staffers raised concerns about Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s ethical conflicts more than a year before Zinke resigned under a cloud of scandal. E&E News obtained the documents under a 6-year-old Freedom of Information Act request.

The emails reveal that career ethics officials raised red flags over the role that Zinke’s wife Lolita played at Interior, where she often traveled with her husband on government trips and sat in on department meetings. The Interior lawyers noted that at the time, Lolita Zinke was also running two family businesses and a nonprofit organization.

Those businesses and nonprofit would end up at the center of the scandal that ultimately cost Zinke his job in 2018—a proposed real estate development with the then-chair of Halliburton, an oilfield services firm.

In an April 2017 email obtained by E&E, Interior attorney Edward McDonnell warned that while Zinke “no longer holds a management position in Continental Divide, LLC, or Double Tap, LLC, he retains a financial interest in both entities” through Lolita. “If, as a result of her accompanying the Secretary, Mrs. Zinke obtains access to information or is in a position to take an action that could affect the financial interest of either entity, this could be problematic.”

Last year, Interior’s watchdog issued a report accusing the former secretary of misusing his office, failing to follow his ethics obligations, and making inaccurate statements about his involvement in the real estate deal.

Gone fishin’

Look West is taking a mid-week break while the CWP team enjoys some time on our public lands. We’ll be back on Friday.

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Quote of the day

Essentially, one state is blocking a national success story from happening. It is absolute night and day, either side of this invisible line, which is always not good for wildlife.”

—Rangeland scientist Matt Barnes, WyoFile


Picture This

A close up of an exceptionally fuzzy black and brown caterpillar


Woolly, woolly, woolly, can’t you see sometimes your stripes just hypnotize me?

The woolly bear caterpillar: predictor of winters, the hedgehog caterpillar, or fuzzy little guys. Legend has it that their stripes can tell us the intensity of the upcoming winter – the longer their black bands, the colder and snowier the winter will be.

Although this is folklore, it is fun to check out their stripes and make some predictions. Keep an eye out for these fuzzy caterpillars as you walk through your public lands this month. They can be seen wandering across paths in search of a wintering spot (usually under leaf litter), and in the spring, they will emerge to become Isabella Tiger Moths. 🦋🐛

📷 A black and brown woolly bear caterpillar crawls across a rock; Wildwood Recreation Site, @blmoregonwashington, BLM photo.


Featured image: Ryan Zinke in 2018. Photo: Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia Commons