U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's real estate deal will be the focus of an investigation by the inspector general of the Interior Department, Politico reports.
Zinke is directly tied to a commercial real estate development deal in his Montana hometown that is being funded by the chairman of Halliburton, the nation's largest oil-services company the interior secretary oversees. Zinke's foundation, which is run by his wife, Lola, allowed a company co-owned by Halliburton chairman David Lesar to build a parking lot on donated land that was meant to be turned into a veterans peace park in Whitefish.
Further, the Zinke's own the land that borders the project, which could mean an increase in property value.
Politico first reported the deal in June.
The investigation started Monday, according to Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall in a letter Wednesday to congressional Democrats.
"You expressed special concern about the reported funding by a top executive at Halliburton and assuring decisions that affect the nation's welfare are not compromised by individual self-enrichment," Kendall wrote. "My office opened an investigation into this matter on July 16."
Zinke oversees oil and gas drilling activities.
"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.
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