Zinke runs into ethical trouble with a hometown real estate deal with Halliburton's chairman

Credit: Kristoffer Tripplaar/Alamy

What do you get when you combine a Veterans' Peace Park, an oil giant, and a microbrewery? Oh, just the latest scandal out of the U.S. Department of the Interior. According to a recent investigation, Secretary Ryan Zinke stands to personally benefit from a real estate deal in his hometown of Whitefish, Montana—backed by none other than the chairman of Halliburton, David Lesar. Halliburton, of course, regularly lobbies the Interior Department for pro-oil policies, such as a sweeping increase in offshore drilling and rollbacks of fracking regulations.

Lesar is trying to build a hotel, retail shops, and a microbrewery adjacent to land donated to a foundation created by Zinke and currently run by his wife, Lola. The land is meant for the creation of a Veterans' Peace Park, for which the foundation will build a parking lot that will also be used by Lesar's microbrewery. Zinke also owns land on the other side of the development project, land which would undoubtedly rise in value. Marilyn Glynn, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics under George W. Bush, says Zinke is clearly crossing the line. “In a previous administration, whether Bush or Obama, you’d never run across something like this,” she said, adding that “nobody would be engaging in business deals” with the executives they’re supposed to be regulating.

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