Less than three months after leaving the job, Ryan Zinke, the most wretched and venal secretary of the interior since James G. Watt held the position under President Ronald Reagan, has landed a job with U.S. Gold Corp., a small Nevada-based mining company. It’s the second job Zinke has taken on since his departure, the first being managing director of the technology and energy investment firm Artillery One, a post he took less than two weeks after leaving Interior.
At the gold company, he’ll bring in $114,000 a year plus an allowance for personal expenses up to $120,000. The announcement again raises the issue of conflict of interest. In 2017, Donald Trump issued an executive order imposing a ban on lobbying by former members of the administration, for their lifetimes for foreign governments and for five years for other entities. Zinke says he won’t be doing any lobbying in his new post.
The reality? Zinke was already working from his government post to make private industry happy, lessening the need for lobbyists to do any nudging.
When he left office in December, Zinke—whose duties at the department included overseeing government leases on public land for the private extraction of oil, natural gas, coal, uranium, and other natural resources—was under investigation for more than a dozen conflicts of interest. The Interior Department’s inspector general scrutinized Zinke’s decision to end a long-term study on the health impacts of coal mining, his travel behavior on the taxpayers’ dime, and other issues.
The Washington Post reported at the time of his resignation:
“Ryan Zinke will go down as the most anti-conservation Interior secretary in our nation’s history,” Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, said in a statement. “Surrounding himself with former lobbyists, it quickly became clear that Ryan Zinke was a pawn for the oil and gas industry. We can expect more of the same from Acting Secretary David Bernhardt, but without the laughable Teddy Roosevelt comparisons.” Zinke had styled himself as a Teddy Roosevelt Republican, showcasing his love of hunting, fishing and riding in the Montana wilderness.
Zinke told the Associated Press that his work for U.S. Gold Corp. would not include lobbying, saying, “I just follow the law, so I don’t talk to anybody on the executive side.” He wouldn’t be influencing anyone, he said.
So what special skills did the company’s CEO Edward Karr cite for hiring Zinke? His “in-depth knowledge of the governmental regulatory and permitting process for mining and exploration companies” and his “excellent relationship” with the Bureau of Land Management and the Interior Department.
“We’re excited to have Secretary Zinke help move us forward” on two pending mining projects, in Nevada and Wyoming, Karr said. The Nevada project, known as Keystone, is on BLM land.