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Montana Politics Ryan Zinke

Does Congressman Zinke Even Live in Montana or is He California Dreamin’?

During the 2016 campaign, Congressman Zinke has landed on a new talking point to justify his frequent appearances on national news and his relative absence from the state. He’s repeatedly (and wrongly) argued that California has fifty-five Congressmen to the one from Montana as an explanation for the fact that he seems to be more interested in raising his national profile than in representing the people of our state.

The talking point merits more consideration than the the typical talking point, though, because it may betray a truth: with Ryan Zinke in office, California may just have an extra representative, one who should be representing Montana. The available evidence calls into serious question whether Congressman Zinke even lives here in Montana any more.

Does Zinke Live in Montana?

The truth is that there is a fair amount of evidence that Congressman Zinke doesn’t live here in Montana.

In July 2016, a Montana reporter asked if it would be possible to film Zinke in his Whitefish home, and was told that Zinke no longer has a residence in Whitefish. I don’t understand how someone can claim to live in Montana without a place of residence here, especially given that the Congress seems to work less than 150 days a year.

On his FEC filings, Congressman Zinke lists his Montana residence as 409 West Second Street in Whitefish, the same address he listed during his time in the Montana Legislature. After years of struggle with the Whitefish City Council, the address at 409 West Second Street was approved for use as a bed and breakfast named the Snowfrog Inn, which has a web page saying that it will be “opening soon.” The address is still 409 West Second Street.

The Snowfrog Inn never seems to have become any kind of business. Its web site has never removed its “Coming Soon” notice and repeated efforts to book a room were met with no answer via e-mail or phone.

In fact, neither Congressman Zinke nor his wife own any property in their names in Montana. In financial disclosure documents, the Zinkes list rental properties in Whitefish, all owned by Continental Divide International, a company Zinke seems to use interchangeably for rental and other sources of income. The property has changed hands between the Zinkes and Continental Divide International five times since 2009, with the last transfer occurring in 2013 when it revered to CDI.

Even his behavior in the past few weeks suggests someone who simply doesn’t live in Montana. While state and federal candidates have long used the homecoming parades in at MSU and UM as opportunities to reach out to voters, Congressman Zinke was wasn’t present at either event, instead preferring to remain in Washington to appear as a surrogate for Donald Trump in the national media.

If the Congressman and his family live here in the state, it’s definitely not clear where that could be.

California Dreaming

So where does he live? The evidence suggests that it could very well be Santa Barbara, California.

On July 20, the Santa Barbara Independent reported that Congressman Zinke held a fundraiser in his home for a GOP Congressional candidate. Here’s how they described it:

Zinke is married to Lolita Hand, who grew up in Santa Barbara and now resides part-time in Hope Ranch. Zinke allowed Republican congressional candidate Justin Fareed — now facing off against Democrat Salud Carbajal — to use his home for a campaign fundraiser earlier this year.

While the Independent changed the headline on that story, their Facebook page retains the original headline “Part-Time Hope Ranch resident Ryan Zinke Speaks at RNC.” The original headline is on the left, and the changed one appears on the right.


Even the existence of the story itself is bizarre. While it would make sense for Congressman Zinke to get attention in the Daily Interlake, why would the Santa Barbara Independent run a story about a Congressman from Montana speaking at the RNC? That only makes sense for a local congressman, or one, as the story still notes in its URL, a “part-time resident.”

And it’s not just the local media who describe Zinke’s place of residence as Santa Barbara. In the release for the March fundraiser, those invited were told that the event would be held at the home of Lola and Congressman Ryan Zinke.

It seems, having gotten away with it in 2014, Zinke has become more brazen about his place of residence. Back in that campaign, you might remember, the Montana media did ask why his campaign signs were appearing in Santa Barbara. The Zinke campaign brushed off concerns then, noting that the Congressman’s family was in Santa Barbara only temporarily because of a family health issue.

In August, the Congressman’s wife, after attending a Trump Hispanic Advisory Council, identified herself as a San Diego lawyer. Univision described her as “the daughter of a Peruvian, is a San Diego lawyer familiar with illegal immigration issues.”

This life as a Californian isn’t a recent development for Congressman Zinke, who was listing his address as 735 State Street in Santa Barbara, California on an SEC filing in 2013, when he reported stocks received when he became a director at Save the World Air, an oil company.

Independent media, Republican fundraisers, and the words of his own wife, combined with the absence of a place to live here in Montana at least raise serious questions about just where Congressman Zinke lives and, more importantly, just who he represents.

Congressman Zinke, who collected 71% of his campaign donations from outside of Montana during the 2014 election, and who has, so far collected 89% of them from outside the state during the 2016 campaign, is certainly beholden to out-of-state interests. Now the real question is whether or not he is just another of those out-of-state special interests himself.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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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  • Que cojones! Slinky don’t even care any more who knows he’s a creep. Like the Donald himself, Slinky is simply playing at politics. If and when he’s found out, he’ll simply move on. Maybe he’ll join that private CIA with his lil’ bald headed buddy, kinda like a Gilligan’s Island type thing! He can be the skipper!

  • Oh how little we know, thanks to main stream mediatingMSM in Montana.
    How did Montana journalists miss the story?
    What’s it like to reside in Santa Barbara?
    His Santa Barbara political neighbors and acquaintances may have vested interests in Monsanto.
    May have portfolios diversified with energy holdings to benefit from high volume of every day four railroad trains units conveying Powder River coal to the proposed new export Terminal, at Longview, Washinton.
    Diversified and hedged with holdings to every day benefit from an average of four unit trains of refinery owned, high vapor pressure crude oil conveyed across Montana, and onto Tank Farms of Refineries near the mouth of the Columbia River.
    Why he must be a hero back home in Santa Barbara.

  • Uh, perhaps up to others to examine.
    More than residency might be involved.
    Who pays for airfare to/from Santa Barbara.

  • Is this the place that used to look in worse shape than a meth house and served as his PAC address and then was sposed to be a micro-brewery called the Double Tap (get it?) and then became his campaign hq? I remember somebody having pictures of it in their blog post back in the day.

  • Nice ‘dude’ cowboy hat, not very authentic in my opinion, or that’s the way the California cowboys wear ’em! You were decent legislator from Whitefish Ryan, and even BELIEVED in man contributing to climate change, but what happened to you? I know, CITIZENS UNITED!

  • I am amazed at how much inaccurate and misleading information has been presented in these posts. I am not certain how much of it is intentional or simply due to poor or lazy research.

    The Zinke’s own three houses that sit on the lot with the 409 West Second Street address Don references. And yes,the Zinkes definitely do live there. Your anonymous person who informed an anonymous reporter that the Zinkes don’t live there is obviously misinformed…….or simply doesn’t exist. A few of my friends visited the Zinkes in their home this summer and others report they attended a political fundraiser the Zinke’s sponsored at their home this summer for Don Kaltschmidt.

    Lola’s mother definitely does live in California. She had temporarily lived in a nursing home outside of California but has returned to her home state as her health has rapidly deteriorated. And yes, like any loving and caring daughter, Lola has spent a lot of time traveling between Montana and California to assist her mother. It’s a pretty low blow to criticize a family for taking care of their dying parent.

    As much as Don has pushed the Juneau campaign to use Lola and Ryan’s visits to California to care for Lola’s mother as a campaign issue, I suspect Denise has far more class than Don and would not be so cruel or so foolish. If she did, I can see the headlines that would follow: “Juneau condemns Zinke for visiting his dying mother-in-law”. Again, Denise has too much class to do that.

    Finally, if you want to bring up the subject of Montana politicians owning houses in Montana, you might want to remember that Max Baucus did not own a home or any property in Montana for most of his many years in the US Senate. At one time he reported his mother house as his Montana residence because he said he occasionally slept in her spare bedroom when visiting the state. At other times he listed his campaign office in Missoula as his permanent residence.

    • their original reason for living in california was because of mrs hand’s health so you’re saying now that her health is rapidly declining they’ve chosen to move back to whitefish and leave her in california? doesn’t make sense. you obviously know the zinke’s well so help me understand why zinke claims his mother in law was consul to peru when there’s no record of her associated with embassy. bummer don k didn’t win the primary…

    • I stand by what I reported in the post. If you’re going to call someone a liar, you should offer some proof.

      That Congressman Zinke has used the illness of his mother-in-law to cover for his absence from the state is something he can address with his own conscience.

      Max Baucus has not represented Montana in the Senate for years.

  • In addition to being one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Santa Barbara, Hope Ranch is one of the wealthiest areas in California; the median home price was $2.61 million in 2006.[2] Houses with ocean views generally list for at least $5 million, with oceanfront properties going for $25 million and more.
    Famous residents of Hope Ranch
    Wendy McCaw – Billionaire owner of Santa Barbara News Press
    H.R. Haldeman family – H.R. Haldeman was White House Chief of Staff under Richard Nixon. H.R. After his term, Haldeman lived in Hope Ranch until his death in 1993.
    Snoop Dogg – purchased a house in November 2006.
    Fess Parker – Actor and businessman.
    Vera Ralston – Figure skater and actor.
    Thomas McGuane, author.

  • Don….Terrible article,,!…. Don’t you have anything better to do with your time,,,?…… wasteful use of the pen…..filled with inaccuracies,!!!.We can see which part you support….it comes across loud and clear. Maybe you should stick to writing about your own party…. there’s so much more worth spinning!!!

  • There are 3 parcels owned by CONTINENTAL DIVIDE INTERNATIONAL, LLC in Flathead County, including the supposed B&B, no parcels owned by Zinke. I believe Zinke would have to have a lease and pay CDI rent to list any one of those three homes as his residence.

  • I remember seeing an article a few years ago that had something to do with Zinke supplying alcohol to minors at a party. Anybody body have any details on the disposition of the charges he faced?

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