Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke spent approximately $6,250 in taxpayer money in July to take a helicopter in order to be on time for a horseback ride with Vice President Mike Pence, travel logs obtained by Politico show.
The pricey flight is just one of several trips made by Zinke that has come under scrutiny. Zinke's travels first flagged attention after he chartered an oil executive's private plane, costing taxpayers more than $12,000. Interior records show that Zinke has also met with political donors or groups more than half a dozen times while on taxpayer-funded department trips, including one visit to the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is illegal to use government resources for partisan ventures.
The Interior Department justified Zinke's use of a helicopter to fly from Yorktown, Virginia, to his Washington, D.C. horseback-riding appointment, and back, noting that there was "a major construction project on I-64." Interior travel scheduler Tim Nigborowicz added that by taking the helicopter, Zinke was able to "familiarize himself with the in-flight capabilities of an aircraft he is in charge of" and that it "added [a] measure of security to the secretary during his travel."
Read more about Zinke's travel — including a separate decision to take an $8,000 helicopter trip from a swearing-in ceremony for his one-time donor, Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.), to an emergency management exercise in West Virginia — at Politico.