Now we know why Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke went to the U.S. Virgin Islands in March on the taxpayer’s dime. It was for a Virgin Islands GOP (VIGOP) fundraiser organized by political scammer Scott B. Mackenzie.
Over the years, Zinke’s congressional campaign, and also his much touted Special Operations for America and SEAL PACs, have employed one or another of Mackenzie’s consulting firms, supposedly in a fundraising capacity. Problem is, most of the money raised stayed in Mackenzie’s pocket. From Politico:
(SEAL PAC) raised two-thirds of its money from small donors in 2016, then steered only 4 percent of its spending to other campaigns, with almost all the rest going to operating expenses and overhead.
Other Republican candidates steer clear of Mackenzie, including Texas Congressman Will Hurd who said Mackenzie’s consulting firms “are preying on seniors in a disgusting attempt to enrich themselves.” That didn’t stop Zinke from using part of a government-paid trip to the Virgin Islands in March to attend a Mackenzie/VIGOP fundraiser.
…where — as POLITICO reported in early October — an invitation listed tickets costing as much as $5,000 a couple, and Zinke’s schedule indicated that high-dollar donors had a chance to take photos with him. It was at least the third VIGOP event Zinke had attended there since 2015.
Zinke, by the way, is being investigated by Interior’s internal watchdog and the independent Office of Special Counsel over his habit of mixing politics and official business.
The toothless Federal Elections Commission seems unable to go after Mackenzie but a past FEC staff member had this to say about his PACs:
Adav Noti, a former FEC associate general counsel who now works for the nonprofit watchdog Campaign Legal Center, said in an interview that he had dealt with the Virgin Islands group and Mackenzie as an FEC official, and that in his opinion, “They are a scam PAC.”
“Scott Mackenzie has a number of scam PACs,” Noti said. “He was probably the first, or one of the first, with the idea of bilking people out of money through PACs. People are being defrauded, and that needs to stop.”
And it looks like the Mackenzie/Zinke PACs prey on society’s most vulnerable:
Lorraine Hutchinson, of Butler, Pennsylvania, told POLITICO that these elderly voters included her mother, who she noticed was repeatedly contributing to SEAL PAC and other organizations, though she didn’t have the disposable income to spare. Hutchinson said Zinke’s PAC was one of the slowest to cease soliciting money when she asked them to stop. At one point, Hutchinson resorted to posting a plea on SEAL PAC’s Facebook page.
“It took a great deal of time and effort but I managed to get most of them to stop. The Seal PAC was one of the most persistent,” Hutchinson told POLITICO in a Facebook message last week. “I am convinced that these groups knowingly take advantage of the vulnerable elderly and this is a widespread problem without any easy solutions.”
The Politico article is lengthly and goes into much greater detail than this post. Zinke has some explaining to do but at this point his spokeswoman at the Interior Department has refused to comment. Is he in on the scam or just being played, year-after-year? The whole thing stinks to high heaven.