June 20, 2018
Public Citizen Calls on Ethics Officials to Investigate Whether Interior Department Chief Violated Federal Code
Zinke Family and Foundation Involved in Real Estate Deal Led by Halliburton Chairman
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Office of Ethics of the U.S. Department of the Interior should determine whether U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke violated the federal conflict of interest code by taking part in a multimillion-dollar business project arranged and funded by the chairman of the oil giant Halliburton, Public Citizen said today in a letter to the agency’s ethics official.
Prior to becoming a government official, Zinke created the Great Northern Veterans Peace Park Foundation, which says its mission is to provide a sledding park and community open space that honors veterans in Zinke’s hometown of Whitefish, Montana. His wife Lola Zinke is the current president and their daughter Jennifer Detlefsen is the treasurer.
According to Politico, the foundation is playing a key role in a real estate project led by David Lesar, chairman and former executive director of Halliburton – a project that stands to be a financial windfall for the Zinke family and the foundation, the letter to the Interior Department’s designated ethics official states.
“Zinke’s business relationship with the chairman of Halliburton, which could well profit Zinke and the family-run foundation, reflects the troubling trend of self-dealing by government officials seen throughout the Trump administration,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen. “This is the most scandal ridden administration in history.”
As the largest oil services company in the U.S., Halliburton is under the direct regulatory authority of the Interior Department. The company routinely reports lobbying the Interior Department on matters like energy policy and oil and gas exploration.
The record of the Zinke family’s direct involvement in a major real estate project run by the chairman of Halliburton – and the deal’s reported financial benefit to the Zinke family and its foundation – raises serious concerns of potential violations of the federal conflicts of interest code, the letter states.