Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has already invited scrutiny of his travels after chartering an oil executive's private plane, costing taxpayers more than $12,000. Now the former Congressman's trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands is getting a second look, "raising questions about his habit of mixing official government business with political activism," Politico writes.
Interior records show that Zinke has met with political donors or groups more than half a dozen times while on taxpayer-funded department trips, Politico reports. It is illegal to use government resources for partisan ventures. While none of Zinke's trips seem to blatantly break the law, House Democrats have alleged the secretary's travels "give the appearance that you are mixing political gatherings and personal destinations with official business." In one instance from the spring, Zinke visited the U.S. Virgin Islands ostensibly to understand the Interior's role in the territory, but also attended a local Republican Party fundraiser.
Zinke has spent about $20,000 on three charter flights since taking the job, Politico reports. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned last week after being embroiled in controversy over his use of private planes while in office, costing taxpayers more than $1 million; Energy Secretary Rick Perry flew charter to Ohio the day before Price's resignation; EPA chief Scott Pruitt has spent more than $58,000 on private and military flights; and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has faced criticism for requesting use of a government jet to whisk him and his third wife away to Europe this summer for their honeymoon and for possibly using a trip to Kentucky to view the solar eclipse.