Ryan Zinke is directly linked to a commercial real estate development deal in his Montana hometown that's being funded by the chairman of Halliburton, the nation's largest oil-services company that the interior secretary oversees, Politico reports.
Zinke's foundation, now being run by his wife, Lola, has pledged vital support to the project by allowing the developer backed by Halliburton chief David Lesar to build a parking lot on donated land that was meant to be turned into a veterans peace park in Zinke's hometown of Whitefish, Politico reports.
The Zinkes' foundation is called The Great Northern Veterans Peace Park Foundation.
Further, the Zinkes own the land that abuts the project in the posh town, a lot that would stand to increase substantially in value, Politico reports. The Lesar-Zinke relationship is not new; Lesar donated the max of $10,400 to Zinke's first congressional campaign.
It's yet another ethical snafu for Zinke and the Trump administration.
"That Halliburton's chairman would almost be a business partner of Zinke or his wife, he would have to recuse himself from anything involving Halliburton," Marilyn Glynn, acting director of the Office of Government Ethics under former President George W. Bush, told Politico.
"In a previous administration, whether Bush or Obama, you'd never run across something like this," Glynn told Politico. "Nobody would be engaging in business deals" with officials of companies whom they oversee.
In a statement, Zinke told Politico he's no longer president of the foundation or a board member, though its 2018 annual report still lists him as an officer, an error Zinke intends to fix, Politico reports.
"The subject LLC you mention has been in contact with Lola with the intent of expanding their parking requirements on park property. I understand a concept was provided but no formal proposal or documents have been submitted or agreed upon. I also understand by reading the paper is their proposal is supported by the City Council," Zinke told Politico.
Zinke's daughter, Jennifer Detlefsen, is the foundation's treasurer.
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