Congressman Zinke on Integrity and the CSKT Treaty

Congressman Zinke likes to talk a lot about “integrity” and “restoring honor” to Washington, D.C. You might, as I do, find it somewhere between tragic and absurd that a man who endorses the use of torture, called for the invasion of Mexico, joked that the former U.S. Secretary of State was the Antichrist, and lies so routinely that even his political allies were forced to call him out for his dishonesty about abortion rights in the middle of a political campaign, but Zinke’s personal lack of integrity seems to bear little relationship to his desire to talk about it.

The latest example of Zinke’s penchant for dishonest dealing centers on the CSKT Treaty which has generated so much controversy in the Montana Legislature the past few months. Once again, it appears that Representative Zinke is telling audiences exactly what they want to hear, even if that means telling two different audiences two different answers. Quoting an interview from a conservative talk show on KVGO, the Missoulian reports that Congressman Zinke has serious concerns about the treaty:

“The state is looking at it very, very closely,” Zinke said in a KGVO interview available on YouTube. “I’m not very comfortable with a number of provisions on it and I’m hoping the state looks at it closely and makes the right decision.”

Of course, Zinke took a very different position when he met with the CSKT Tribal Council back in December:

On a separate note, Zinke informed the Tribal Council of his support of the CSKT water compact. He says he hopes the information in the water compact will persuade people to think rationally about their stance on the settlement, rather than feel with emotion, which he feels that most people are doing.

Now that the Montana Legislature has somewhat surprisingly passed the agreement, Zinke finds himself in a real bind. He can’t afford to alienate the collection of racists and conspiracy theorists in his party who don’t want to recognize the water rights of the tribes, but he certainly can’t switch positions a third time in such a short window. Even Zinke has standards. Look for Zinke to do everything he can to quietly block federal adoption of the agreement so that he doesn’t have to confront this latest profile in political cowardice.

The CSKT Treaty also provides a transition into another example of Zinke’s lack of integrity. During a totally spontaneous, grassroots Google Hangout last week, the Congressman took questions from such luminaries as Eric Olsen, head of the Montana Shrugged TEA Party group and Susan Cundiff, the former Republican candidate for Senate. He also took Astroturf questions from his former campaign spokeswoman, Shelby Demars, who is currently under investigation for her lobbying practices in favor of the CSKT Treaty.


If taking questions from a former campaign staffer during an event billed as a chance to talk to the public isn’t integrity, I don’t know what is. Congressman Zinke: ducking the hard questions and choosing two answers instead of one when he can get away with it.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a 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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