Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has been using taxpayer money to fund his own private jets and use of military plans to fly to his home in Whitefish, Montana as well as two two Caribbean islands.
A report from Politico revealed Zinke spent $12,375 on one trip to Whitefish from Las Vegas using a Beechcraft King Air 200.
During that trip to Las Vegas, Zinke spoke at an event for the city’s new professional hockey team. Earlier in the day he flew to Pahrump, Nevada for an announcement about public lands.
He’s now the fourth senior official in President Donald Trump’s cabinet who has been caught using private jets instead of commercial travel for government trips. Others include EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who has taken multiple trips back to Oklahoma, where some say he might run for Governor in 2018. Most notably, however, is Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who was caught spending $1 million so far on private jets and the use of military planes.
Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift explained that the planes were used only when staff was unable to find a commercial flight that would work with the secretary’s schedule. However, Las Vegas is “one of the main connecting airports for commercial flights to Glacier International,” Politico reported.
The trip to Montana was to speak before the Western Governors’ Association’s meeting. He spoke to the governors for 20 minutes and refused to take questions. He then did a photoshoot with GQ Magazine. He also went fishing at Lake McDonald while also doing an interview with Outside Magazine records show. The following day, Zinke and his staff flew back to Washington, D.C. on commercial flights.
The two flights to the Caribbean were to attend the centennial of the Danish government. He flew from St. Croix to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands on March 31. There were then two flights chartered returning to St. Croix that night. Commercial flights between the islands generally cost only a few hundred dollars.
Zinke and his wife also used military flights to Norway and from there to Alaska. He also used a military helicopter to fly from Fort Bliss to see the Organ Mountains monument in New Mexico in June. He then used a Bureau of Land Management helicopter to survey the Basin and Range National Monument at the end of July.