Buy Ryan Zinke an RV with Your Campaign Donations!

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There’s little doubt that Ryan Zinke has been involved in some shady fundraising in political campaigns, but it appears he has taken that selfishness to a new level with the purchase of a $60,000 RV for his campaign. Derek Willis at ProPublica notes that the Congressman’s latest report includes the absurd expenditure.

Two items on his latest campaign expenditures show that the Zinke for Congress campaign spend $51,9000 and $7,2000 to purchase what is variously described as a “campaign vehicle purchase” and the “remainder of the RV balance. The two payments came on April 7 and May 18, 2016.

Confusingly, the payee on each line is not an actual RV dealer, but the Congressman’s wife, Lolita Zinke. The $51,900 expenditure is the largest single expense in his entire campaign. What’s unclear right now is whether or not this is the same RV he was traveling around in during the 2014 campaign, but I will keep digging. My guess (unsubstantiated at the moment) is that Zinke is paying himself full market value for his own RV, the one he used in the last campaign.

It’s also worth asking whether the vehicle is registered in Montana.

Back in 2010, Politico wrote about another member of Congress, Eric Massa, who purchased a $32,000 vehicle for himself with campaign donations. At the time, a former FEC attorney described the problematic nature of an expenditure like that:

Even in normal circumstances, purchasing a car with campaign funds is “vexing and nettlesome,” Gross said. Accounting procedures are cumbersome, because the lawmaker might use the car for several purposes, including for campaign travel, government travel and personal use.

The FEC in 2001 ruled that Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) could purchase an automobile with campaign funds, as long as he kept a mileage log parsing out personal use and campaign use.

Zinke has a history, both in the Navy and as the leader of a SuperPAC, of mixing up funds that are for official and personal business. He’s never fully disclosed the nature of the discipline he received for improperly spending travel funds as a SEAL, and his actions at his SuperPAC were so shady that fellow Republican Rick Hill called him out for it, writing:

However, what concerns me about this solicitation is its legality. Using an independent PAC to solicit funds for a federal candidate is highly questionable.

While at his Special Operations for America SuperPAC, Zinke funneled $26,000 to himself and thousands more to friends, despite saying that he would not take a cent from the donations. His use of SOFA as a personal piggy bank was called out by Congressman Hill again, who wrote:

Zinke needs to make public the financial records of Continental Divide International. We need to know if he had used it to improperly funnel money from SOFA and other entities for personal gain.

The median household income in Montana is $44,222, or about 2/3 the cost of the RV that Ryan Zinke is collecting campaign donations for. Given that Mr. Zinke makes $174,000 a year on his Congressional salary, it’s unseemly at best and criminal at worst to shake down elderly voters with inflated TERROR alerts about Syrian children instead of purchasing a toy for himself with his own salary. I eagerly look forward to the next report, which will likely include a line item for “sick cammo paint job” at a few thousand bucks.

You might ask your Republican friends if it’s reasonable to ask whether or not donations, many of which get funneled to Ryan Zinke’s friends back home and cronies in Washington, and now go for the purchase of an RV from his wife, are really in the best interest of Montana or are just in the best interest of Ryan Zinke, who has turned self-promotion into not just an art form, but a moneymaker.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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Linda Morgan aka Athyrio
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Linda Morgan aka Athyrio

this man is a major sleeze

Carla Augustad
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Does Zinke really get SS Disability for Athlete;s Foot, or were you being facetious?

Draftmama
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Draftmama

Athletes Foot is easily treatable. First wash your feet every morning with anti fungal soap. Dry them and apply anti fungal powder. Both these products are available at your local drug store. Wear freshly laundered socks every day. Having grown up with three brothers I know these things. Mum was tyrannical about this. None of us liked living around stinky feet.

Gregg
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Gregg

He parks that bad boy in his renters yard across the street from his house on West 2nd St. in Whitefish. I’ll check the tags next time I see it…

Bill
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Bill

You guys are pathetic. What have you done for Montana? What have you proposed to better Montana? Zinke bashing with no evidence to support. I don’t see any charges brought forth. What has your team made in donations. Perhaps they are to busy bashing and not providing solutions and pandering to those that expect entitlements. Be careful he may buy a second RV with the proceeds from a liable lawsuit.

Bill
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Bill

Mr. Zinke, has 22 years as a U.S. Navy Seal retiring with the rank of a Commander and the Dean of the Naval Special Warfare Graduate School . I really don’t know either one of two. Who’s credibility and judgement would you support. I don’t like all the bashing. In the United States Navy, the United States Coast Guard, the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps, commander (abbreviated “CDR”) is a mid-grade officer rank, with the pay grade of O-5. Commander ranks above lieutenant commander (O-4) and below captain… Read more »

Pete Talbot
Admin

“Skipper.” I like that, Bill. Reminds me of Gilligan’s Island. Of course, if Zinke ends up as VP, that would make Trump the “Skipper” and Zinke would be Gilligan.

Bill
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Bill

Also please advise Greg as he is checking out the bad boys tags he does not inadvertently surprise Mr. Zinke. He may inadvertently end up with some broken bones. Remember Mr. Zinke use to run down the beach carrying logs among other things.

Gregg
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Gregg

It sure is nice having all that knowledge at your fingertips. And I must admit, Wiki does allow one to appear smarter than they really are. That said… your knowledge of Naval rank far surpasses mine. All I know know is that I was raised by a Navy Commander, yes…CDR. , and an Army MASH nurse who held the rank of Major. My father served in Korea and VietNam, received a Presidential Unit Citation for his squadron, and a Purple Heart for injuries sustained while there. The one thing I learned from my parents is… you don’t talk about your… Read more »

Gregg
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Gregg

The bad boy is what I called the RV. But since you brought it up, I am really impressed by your knowledge of rank in the Navy. Sure is nice to have Wiki at your fingertips, isn’t it? My knowledge compared to yours is so lacking, considering the fact that I was raised by a Navy Commander, and an Army Mash nurse who held the rank of Major. My father, an officer of 30 years served in two wars, received a Presidential Unit Citation for his work flying in VietNam, and a Purple Heart for injuries he sustained while there.… Read more »

Bill
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Bill

Greg, sounds like a great person but this was for the purpose of the average reader so they would not mistake a CDR for a E3. I am just tired of the bashing, speculation. hearsay, rumor mongering, etc. Very unprofessional. Just the facts please. So Mr. Zinke tells war stories, BFD, have you ever been in the O Club or the VFW. They/we earned it. I have yet to see a commercial of what Steve Bullock is going to do for the state. Just PAC bashing. FYI, 6 yrs USN Flattops.

Bill
Guest
Bill

And yes, a member of the Tonkin Bay Yacht Club and a Shellback.

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