Being a cabinet official for the President of the United States means the spotlight shines just a little brighter on you than it did when you were just one of 435 members of the House of Representatives. The scrutiny is more intense. There are more members of the media to write stories and to do investigations. Of course, if you want to promote yourself, there’s someone in the media waiting to do that, too.
Former Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke is finding out that he is not in Montana anymore. Zinke is President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Interior. Many in Montana, this writer included, wished Zinke well in his new position. Zinke, who is a former Navy SEAL, has found the seas pretty rough during his first year as Secretary.
Zinke made the news when he rode a horse to work – good news. He made the news when he used private planes for government travel – bad news. He made the news when he supposedly tried to leverage a couple U.S. Senators on healthcare – bad news. He made the news when he has his interior flag flown when he is in the Department of Interior building – silly news. He made the news with a review of National Monuments – bad news. He’s making the news for considering a plan to more than double or triple the cost to visit National Parks – bad news.
I’m sure there are more issues I could list, but this is enough for the first nine months.
The latest two issues that are causing trouble in the Zinke kingdom were reported recently. Politico reported that Zinke has directed millions of dollars in political contributions since 2014 to a network of Washington operatives that prominent conservatives have accused of profiting by misleading donors.
In just last day or so the Associated Press (AP) and other news organizations are reporting that members of Congress from both parties are calling for an investigation into a $300 million contract awarded to a small company based in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s hometown of Whitefish, Montana. The company, called Whitefish Energy Holdings, has two full-time employees. It was also reported that Zinke’s son had a summer job at a Whitefish construction site.
To be quite honest, I wonder how much longer Zinke can last. The spotlight is becoming intense and although nothing much has stuck to Zinke, as Flo from Progressive Insurance would say, “These are troubling times in the kingdom.”