Secy. Zinke Took $12,000 Charter Flight Home, Paid By Taxpayers In Oil Executive’s Plane, And Virgin Island Private Flight


Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke chartered a flight from Las Vegas to near his home in Montana this summer aboard a plane owned by oil-and-gas executives, internal documents show.  The flight, along with private flights during a trip to the Virgin Islands, could propel Zinke into the growing debate over the costs of travel by Cabinet secretaries, some of whom have chosen expensive charter jets and military planes at high expense to taxpayers over the cheaper option of flying commercial.


In June, Zinke and his staffers took a four-hour flight from Las Vegas to Kalispell, Mont., aboard a private plane owned by the executives of a Wyoming oil-and-gas exploration firm, aviation and business records show.


The landing in Kalispell put Zinke a short drive from his home in Whitefish, Mont., where he spent the night, documents show.

The flight cost taxpayers $12,375, according to an Interior Department spokeswoman. Commercial airlines run daily flights between the two airports and charge as little as $300.


The new flight details show how Zinke has mixed political gatherings and personal destinations with his taxpayer-funded work as the head of a federal agency that manages or controls the vast majority of federal land.


Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift said Zinke’s charter flights were authorized by ethics officials and booked only when feasible commercial flights were unavailable. Previous interior secretaries flew charter flights when needed, Swift added. She did not provide documentation of the approvals.

Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy: AP
Follow us on Twitter @HighlightHwd or @LightfootinHwd