The EPA’s Scott Pruitt and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke are a formidable one-two punch in representing this administration’s desire to roll back environmental regulations and enable the energy sector’s rape and pillage of our lands. Their connections to oil, gas, and mining companies are documented and deserve ongoing scrutiny, as does the entire administration. This was highlighted in the recent revelation of Whitefish Energy’s baffling contract with Puerto Rican Electric Power Authority (PREPA). A contract hastily written with the inexperienced young company despite usual operating procedure of working in partnership with other state’s energy providers to fix infrastructure, which PREPA is now, belatedly untilizing after public outcry regarding the Whitefish deal.
What is not being reported is a similar, hastily organized Puerto Rico contract for 200 million dollars with another company that was just created this year: Cobra Acquisitions LLC from Scott Pruitt’s home state of Oklahoma. I don’t know that there is any connection between this company and Scott Pruitt; it could just as likely be connected to Zinke. What is worth further scrutiny is how both of these inexperienced companies, Whitefish and Cobra, came to have representatives on the island early and available for quickly arranged, very large contracts.
“The Cobra contract is less flashy and less obviously crazy,” Cathy Kunkel, an energy analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, told The Intercept. “But together with [the Whitefish contract] shows the nexus of PREPA with oil and gas interests — the kind of companies that are go-to companies for PREPA.”
Since his first horse ride into DC, Zinke has represented the energy sector and I have no doubt he is trying to concoct ways in which to personally profit from it. This is idle speculation on my part as it hasn’t been proven yet, but I have every reason to believe it will, based on his history.
Ryan Zinke had learned long ago the power of misrepresenting facts, the seduction of self-dealing, and the value of influence peddling. In his case, it started innocently enough with the improper charging of the Navy for $211 freaking dollars for a little trip he took to his hometown during a purported “scout training locations” tour in the late 1990s. Aside from the fact there was no need for him to scout any such locations, it became clear he was actually at his Montana home doing some work there. The navy found out, and gave him a “fitness report” because of it, which is a blemish on the record calling into question his ability to make sound decisions.
Later during his run for Montana Senate this issue was raised and Zinke successfully obfuscated the facts and undertook a basic tenant of the current administration in the form of mud-slinging, while simultaneously promoting his military career as the single reason why he should be elected.
“But some former SEAL team members claim that Mr. Zinke has also exploited his past — he placed the SEALs’ insignia (with six stars, presumably for SEAL Team 6) on his campaign bus in violation of Defense Department guidelines against politicizing such symbols — and that he exaggerated what he did in his later military jobs to obscure that he never received commands of his own.”
It isn’t that Zinke didn’t learn from this event, he did. He learned he could get away with it; without long term consequences and thereby learned that obfuscation of the facts is a significant tool for his end goals of self-dealing and corruption.
In 2012, halfway through his first term in Montana Senate, he launched Special Operations For America (SOFA), a military-focused super political action committee, a type of independent group that is allowed by the Federal Election Commission to raise and spend unlimited sums of money to advocate for or against political candidates. In 2013, he stepped down from involvement in the Super Pac and announced his intention to run for Montana’s lone congressional seat in DC. SOFA was immediately supporting him with the funds he himself had just raised.
“SOFA supported Zinke’s bid for Congress, prompting concerns from watchdog groups about the potential illegal coordination between his campaign and the supposedly independent super PAC, which was registered to another property Zinke owns via Double Tap (a Zinke company) in Whitefish. In March 2014, the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 filed a complaint with the FEC, asking it to investigate the ties between the super PAC and Zinke’s campaign. A spokesman for the center said the agency never responded to the groups’ request.
SOFA spent $175,000 in support of Zinke during the 2014 election cycle, FEC data shows. At the same time, the super PAC told the election commission that it paid CDI (Continental Divide International, another company Zinke owns) over $11,600 for “consulting” and travel reimbursements.
Altogether, the company that Zinke now describes as a “rental property” business made almost $45,000 from SOFA from July 2012 until 14 months later, when he announced on Facebook that he was leaving the super PAC.”
During his time in Montana State Senate and onward, it became clear that Zinke wasn’t even a resident of Montana, but instead lived in California while supposedly representing his state. The residence where he supposedly lived, had changed hands in ownership between himself and his company Continental Divide Incorporated (CDI) five times from 2009 forward, depending on Zinke’s needs of where to declare his residency.
“In July 2016, a Montana reporter asked if it would be possible to film Zinke in his Whitefish home, and was told that Zinke no longer has a residence in Whitefish. I don’t understand how someone can claim to live in Montana without a place of residence here, especially given that the Congress seems to work less than 150 days a year.
On his FEC filings, Congressman Zinke lists his Montana residence as 409 West Second Street in Whitefish, the same address he listed during his time in the Montana Legislature. After years of struggle with the Whitefish City Council, the address at 409 West Second Street was approved for use as a bed and breakfast named the Snowfrog Inn, which has a web page saying that it will be “opening soon.” The address is still 409 West Second Street.
The Snowfrog Inn never seems to have become any kind of business. Its web site has never removed its “Coming Soon” notice and repeated efforts to book a room were met with no answer via e-mail or phone.
In fact, neither Congressman Zinke nor his wife own any property in their names in Montana. In financial disclosure documents, the Zinkes list rental properties in Whitefish, all owned by Continental Divide International, a company Zinke seems to use interchangeably for rental and other sources of income. The property has changed hands between the Zinkes and Continental Divide International five times since 2009, with the last transfer occurring in 2013 when it reverted to CDI.”
How Zinke came to represent Montana in the US Congress, I have no idea.
Moving forward to his current position as Secretary of the Interior, his questionable dealings continue. He was sworn to divest himself of any involvement with this strange goings-on of his own companies, but to this date, has not.
Montana records show the secretary’s wife, Lolita Zinke, continues to be listed as a managing member of Continental Divide International LLC (CDI), one of the three organizations with which Zinke has vowed to cut ties. That’s potentially problematic, watchdogs say, because in the agreement with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics that he signed Jan. 10, the then-congressman said he understood “that the interests of” his spouse would be legally attributed to him.
“In addition to CDI, Zinke promised the ethics office that he “will resign from my position with” Double Tap LLC and the Great Northern Veterans Peace Park Foundation Inc. as soon as the Senate approved his nomination to lead Interior.
CDI, which has collected tens of thousands of dollars in consulting fees from a political group Zinke created, and Double Tap were founded as hospitality industry ventures.
“The documents (for his removal from ownership) were mailed to the attorney of the boards, who confirmed receipt, fulfilling the Secretary’s requirement,” his spokesperson said. Those resignation letters, however, never made it to the Montana secretary of state’s office.”
-His well documented abuse of federal government funding for his own purposes and wooing of the energy sector:
http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/06/politics/interior-lola-zinke/index.htm https://www.politico.com/story/2017/10/10/zinke-trips-fundraisers-ski-resort-243651 https://www.politico.com/story/2017/10/05/zinke-fundraiser-official-travel-interior-24347
-His bizarre, self-important flag raising deal: http://time.com/4980898/ryan-zinke-interior-department-flag-ritual-donald-trump/
-Super bizarre, self-congratulatory horseback ride into his first day of office: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/ryan-zinke-new-interior-secretary-rides-horse-first-day-work-n728151
-Dude had a coin minted for himself: “He has commissioned commemorative coins with his name on them to give to staff and visitors, but the cost to taxpayers is unclear. Zinke’s predecessors and some other Cabinet secretaries have coins bearing agency seals, but not personalized ones.”
-Whitefish Energy’s inexplicable 300 million dollar contract in Puerto Rico. Whitefish Energy just happens, coincidentally, to be from Zinke’s hometown: http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/357542-white-house-zinke-told-trump-he-had-no-role-in-puerto-ricos-whitefish
-My discovery that Zinke had promoted that same company’s (Whitefish’s) effort to secure government financing for a big project in Montana before Puerto Rico (why hasn’t anyone else picked up on this???!!!): https://100percenttrue.wordpress.com/2017/10/30/secretary-zinke-did-push-a-big-job-to-whitefish-before-puerto-rico/
-Another recently reported misuse of campaign funds not on anyone’s radar: http://billingsgazette.com/news/government-and-politics/watchdog-says-zinke-s-rv-sale-to-friend-broke-campaign/article_842f4ecd-d794-526b-8fe1-f08cab758910.html