The Office of Special Counsel has cleared Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke of many potential violations relating to executive administration officials’ participation in political activity, the Associated Press reported.
The independent government watchdog reviewed records of several cases where Zinke has been accused of violating the Hatch Act, which bars Cabinet members from engaging in political activities. The Special Counsel sent its findings to the Department of the Interior (DOI) in a May 31 letter obtained by the AP.
Notably, Zinke was cleared of any wrongdoing involving a speech he gave to the Las Vegas Golden Nights professional hockey team. The team’s owner donated money to the Trump campaign.
“As the inspector general pointed out, the secretary always works with career ethics professionals and has followed all laws, rules and regulations related to his travel,” DOI spokeswoman Heather Swift told the AP.
The Special Counsel’s report follows a similar finding by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) in April. The OIG concluded that Zinke’s non-commercial flights, which had drawn heavy criticism from Democrat politicians, “followed relevant law, policy, rules, and regulations.” (RELATED: AUDIT: IG Finds Ryan Zinke ‘Followed Relevant Law’ When Chartering Flights)
Zinke left Las Vegas after the speech in a charter flight to Montana. The IG concluded the DOI might have avoided chartering the flight and found a less expensive option if members of Zinke’s staff had worked with the team to schedule an alternate time for the 12-minute speech.
The IG report missed another official engagement Zinke had planned in Las Vegas, according to DOI Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt.
“When the Secretary’s visit to Red Rock Canyon is added to the timeline, it is dubious whether the Secretary would have been able to get to the airport in Las Vegas in time to catch the last commercial flight” and still make an official event in Montana on time, Bernhardt said.
Ultimately, the IG cleared the speech because it was void of anything to do with politics or campaigning. It was a speech on leadership and Zinke’s time as a Navy SEAL.
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