Remember Halliburton, the oil company formerly led by Vice President Dick Cheney, which the Bush administration rewarded handsomely with no-bid government contracts? Well, they’re back in the news because time is a flat circle, and we’re all dead already.
On Tuesday, Politico reported that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his wife are playing a crucial role in a real estate deal with a group funded by Halliburton Chairman David Lesar for a “large commercial development” in Zinke’s hometown of Whitefish, MT. The development—which, again, is being financed in part by the head of Halliburton—would include a microbrewery, set aside for Zinke and his wife Lola to run, the city’s planner told the site. How quaint!
Politico reported that’s not the only way the Zinkes are invested in—and could later reap the rewards—of the development in their hometown:
Meanwhile, a foundation created by Ryan Zinke is providing crucial assistance. Lola Zinke pledged in writing to allow the Lesar-backed developer to build a parking lot for the project on land that was donated to the foundation to create a Veterans Peace Park for citizens of Whitefish. The 14-acre plot, which has not been significantly developed as a park, is still owned by the foundation. Lola Zinke is its president, a role her husband gave up when he became interior secretary.
The Zinkes stand to benefit from the project in another way: They own land on the other side of the development, and have long sparred with neighbors about their various plans for it. 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.
What makes this specific deal corrupt? Zinke is the head of a department tasked with overseeing the United States’ public lands, which companies like Halliburton want to suck dry of their natural resources. Zinke is now potentially going to personally profit from a project linked to a massive corporation his office is tasked with regulating.
Zinke’s cozy relationship with energy companies is nothing new, nor is his use of public office for personal gain. Last June, Zinke and his staffers took a $12,375 flight aboard a Wyoming oil executive’s private jet. He spent $139,000 in taxpayer money to upgrade doors in his office, and spent upwards of $14,000 on government helicopters to fly around Washington last summer. That includes one $6,250 trip across the river from Virginia to DC, when Zinke went horseback riding with Vice President Mike Pence. And remember Whitefish Energy, the tiny Montana firm coincidentally located in Zinke’s hometown, to which the government awarded a $300 million no-bid contract to rebuild Puerto Rico’s power lines?
Fuck Ryan Zinke and the horse he rode in on.