A pair of top House Democrats are calling for an investigation into Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s possible violation of federal anti-lobbying laws.
Reps. Raul Grijalva of Arizona and Frank Pallone of New Jersey sent letters to Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the inspector general at the Interior Department asking them to look into whether Zinke’s conversations with Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan violate federal lobbying laws.
Zinke called the senators to inform them that Murkowski’s dissent on the GOP Obamacare repeal vote had potentially cost her home state federal support on a number of economic and regulatory issues.
“I’m not going to go into the details, but I fear that the strong economic growth, pro-energy, pro-mining, pro-jobs and personnel from Alaska who are part of those policies are going to stop,” Sullivan told the Alaska Dispatch News on Thursday. He added that Zinke made it clear the threats were made in response to Murkowski’s decision to defy GOP leadership and the Trump administration on the Senate health care vote.
The letters ask the agencies to investigate Zinke’s conversation with the senators in order to determine whether he violated federal anti-lobbying laws or the Hobbs Act, which “prohibits actual or attempted robbery or extortion affecting interstate or foreign commerce.”
Trump publicly ridiculed Murkowski Tuesday night for her decision to stray from the party line in voting against the Obamacare repeal bill procedural vote, which the GOP needed to begin debate.
The senators’ letter to the GAO suggests that the timing of Zinke’s call in relation to Trump’s criticism of Murkowski was indicative of a politically motivated deployment of government resources.
“The close timing of these actions suggests an apparent pattern and organized effort within the Trump Administration involving the use of federal resources to advance partisan legislation,” the letter concludes.
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