04.17.18

Senate Western Caucus Chairman, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Chairman, Statement on DOI Inspector General Report

Today, Senate Western Caucus Chairman Steve Daines (MT) and Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Lisa Murkowski (AK), released the following statement following the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Inspector General report on DOI Secretary Ryan Zinke’s travel expenses.

“Secretary Zinke is spending nearly two-thirds less than officials during the Obama Administration and we have full confidence he will continue to use Americans’ taxpayer dollars wisely as he works to serve the country and bring western values to the Department of the Interior,” said Daines.

“Last May, Secretary Zinke and three members of his team joined me on a charter flight in one of the most remote parts of Alaska, where commercial service was unavailable. We departed from Deadhorse, landed at Alpine, later flew back across much of the North Slope, and ultimately landed in Fairbanks,” Murkowski said. “This type of flight is not uncommon in Alaska, where we lack the roads that so many in the Lower 48 take for granted. I’m glad Secretary Zinke was not faulted for taking that flight, and hope that he and other administration officials will be able to travel in remote parts of our state as needed in the future, without having their motives unduly questioned.”

Background:

  • The report concludes Secretary Zinke’s “use of chartered flights followed relevant law, policy, rules and regulations.”
  • Secretary Zinke sat down with the Division of General Law and ethics teams on his first day in office and made clear he was relying upon their professional guidance to navigate ethics rules and that, when in doubt, they should err on the side of caution.
  • Secretary Zinke expended $53,613 in 2017 for noncommercial travel. By comparison, during the Obama Administration, Secretary Jewell spent on average $112,000 each year and Secretary Salazar spent $213,413. 
  • The yearly average expended from 2010 to 2016 under the prior Administration was $155,000, nearly three times what Secretary Zinke has spent.
  • The report does not adequately characterize the Secretary’s official duties performed during his travel, providing on-site execution of the Department’s role.
  • Under Secretary Zinke’s leadership, the Department of the Interior (DOI) has taken a number of steps to bolster the Departmental Ethics Office, increasing the importance of the role of the Office in the Department beyond the previous Administration.

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