Gage Skidmore / Flickr ryan zinke...
Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke joins the growing list of Trump cabinet members who have been flying high on the taxpayer dime. 

In June, Zinke and his staffers took a four-hour flight from Las Vegas to Kalispell, Mont., aboard a private plane owned by the executives of a Wyoming oil-and-gas exploration firm, aviation and business records show.

The landing in Kalispell put Zinke a short drive from his home in Whitefish, Mont., where he spent the night, documents show.

The flight cost taxpayers $12,375, according to an Interior Department spokeswoman. Commercial airlines run daily flights between the two airports and charge as little as $300.

Get that, taxpayers? We paid $12,375 to oil and gas millionaires (or billionaires) to shuttle Ryan Zinke home for one night. All while he schemes to open up our national parks for oil and gas drilling, destroying sensitive ecological environment to further enrich Big Oil executives. And we paid them! It’s even worse—he was there to give a short speech and then do photo shoots of himself looking rugged for outdoor magazines. From Politico:

In Whitefish, Zinke attended the Western Governors’ Association’s annual meeting, where he spoke for about 20 minutes without taking questions. He then had a private lunch with association members. In the afternoon Zinke was the subject of a photo shoot with GQ magazine at Lake McDonald and fished while being interviewed by Outside Magazine, the records show.

But, wait! There’s more. We also paid for him to jet off to Lake Tahoe for a fancy-schmancy event to thank his biggest donor from the swamp.

He justified the use of this plane by tacking on a short speech to a group in Nevada before the celebration cocktails started flowing:

Aaron Weiss of the Center for Western Priorities, a nonprofit conservation and advocacy group, said, “Secretary Zinke’s entire Nevada trip appears to be a flimsy excuse for a political event in Tahoe and a thank-you dinner with his biggest campaign bundler.

“There was no legitimate reason for the secretary to be there in the first place,” Weiss said. “Then he saddles taxpayers with the bill for a private plane when he could have easily flown commercial.”

Unfortunately for us taxpayers, that’s not all. Politico discovered a trip to the Virgin Islands:

On March 31, Interior chartered two flights to take Zinke and staff from St. Croix to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands to attend the centennial of the Danish government turning the islands over to the United States. Another two flights were chartered to return to St. Croix later that night.

A trip to Alaska by way of Norway:

In May, Zinke and his wife, Lolita, used a military aircraft to travel to Norway. From there, they flew on a military plane to Alaska for events organized by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The trip included charter planes to travel within Alaska, a common occurrence in the large, remote state. The Zinkes paid for Lolita’s share of the trip, the full cost of which was not immediately available, Swift said.

It’s champagne dreams and caviar wishes for these guys! Nothing but the best for the men while they dismantle the agencies that protect us and complete their quest to turn our natural resources over to The Swamp!

Zinke’s plush travel follows a pattern of wasteful, hypocritical, infuriating spending on private jets from Trump’s cabinet, the wealthiest cabinet in all of American history. First it was mega-millionaire Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin using a government jet to fly down to an eclipse party and a request for taxpayer-funded military jets for use on his European honeymoon. Then it was Health and Human Service Secretary Tom Price using taxpayer-funded jets at will, whisking him from speaking gigs where where he railed against “wasteful government spending” to “meetings” and speaking gigs that just coincidentally happen to be in places where he and his family vacation and own property. In fact, Price’s preference for private jets has now cost taxpayers more than $1 million. All while he schemes with top Republican donors, like the Koch brothers, to repeal the Affordable Care Act and destroy Medicaid as we know it.

Next we learned EPA chief Scott Pruitt, in between meetings on slashing the budget of the agency, laying off hundreds of employees and overall dismantling the EPA, also enjoyed a number of taxpayer-funded chartered jets, even though other options were available. The governor of Colorado offered him a lift to one meeting, but Pruitt preferred to book a private charter. He joined Trump at a publicity stunt in Cincinnati, taking a $20,000 chartered flight when commercial flights were available for $350. 

If nothing else, never, ever stand by and listen to a lecture about fiscal responsibility from Republicans again. NEVER.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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