Montana Politics Ryan Zinke

Why is the Montana Press Ignoring the Zinke Lawsuit?

It’s clear that Congressman Zinke has stopped working for the people of Montana. His offices don’t take phone calls and the voice mail systems at least two of his offices have been ignored so completely that they are full. And just as Congressman Zinke seems to be ignoring his responsibilities to the people who elected him, the Montana political press seems to be ignoring critical coverage of the state’s Congressman.

One story the press has resolutely ignored is that our Congressman is being sued for his failure to pay tens of thousands of dollars to a D.C.-based church that was housing his mother.

E&E Daily reports that Congressman Zinke is being sued for $66,000 for violating a residential lease agreement involving his mother-in-law:

Zinke also told the committee this month that he’s involved in a “landlord-tenant dispute” pending in the D.C. Superior Court.

In that lawsuit, the Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Washington, D.C., is suing Zinke and his wife, Lolita, for breaching their residential lease agreement.

The church claims that the Zinkes failed to pay rent for the full year of their lease, abandoning the property three months after moving in. The church is seeking more than $66,000 in unpaid rent, including late fees.

The suit was filed in D.C. Superior Court on October 21, 2016, over two full weeks before the November election. Congressman Zinke and his wife were served with the suit in Santa Barbara, California in November before, in Trumpian fashion, filing a counter-suit against the church.

That the suit was filed on October 21, 2016 is especially interesting, given that the Montana Lee papers offered one of the worst stories of the 2016 cycle on October 24, 2016, when they let Zinke pretend to be the victim of a vicious smear about his residency status. In that piece, Zinke offered the same excuse he’s maintained for years to explain why the press and politicians of California believe that he lives in Santa Barbara—that he and his wife were there to care for his aging mother-in-law. Given the shifting nature of their claims about Mrs. Hand, it’s somewhat absurd for the media to take at face value claims that the Zinkes were so frequently in Santa Barbara because they needed to care for her.

It certainly seems relevant to ask when Mrs. Hand was living in the Washington area and when she was in Santa Barbara, not for the sake of prying into the personal life of the Zinke family, but simply to test the truth of his claims. Looking into the lawsuit to determine when Mrs. Hand was living in the D.C. area seems like a reasonable task for reporters, especially given the attention given to claims that Congressman Zinke has not been living in Montana.

And even if there is no new evidence about Congressman Zinke’s choice of residence, surely it’s newsworthy that our Congressman has been sued for failing to pay a sizeable debt to a church, isn’t it? Given the attention paid to marital affairs, decades-old DUI convictions, and plagiarism in academic documents, surely the press in Montana should ask Congressman Zinke to explain why he refuses to honor his debts and a legal agreement. For most Montanans who don’t have Neil Livingstone cutting them checks to run for office (another story the press has ignored), $66,000 would be a great deal of money, and Zinke’s refusal to pay it demands an explanation.

It’s too late to expect real coverage of Ryan Zinke by the Montana press. The damage has already been done by their willful, bizarre refusal to give his shady financial record real attention, but perhaps now, as Congressman Zinke leaves the state, the press can finally do some due diligence and simply report on this case—and demand an explanation.

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.


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  • When I read this site it’s clear why Dems lose in Montana. No one cares what you’re saying. If they did, you’d be winning. But you’re not. Despite all your anti-Zinke posts last cycle, Don, Zinke won by an astounding margin and then got tapped for the cabinet.

    How does that make you feel? If it was me, I’d feel pretty shitty. All that ‘work’ for nothing.

    And then here you are, doing the exact same spiels.

    Think the results will be different?

    I wonder how long before you delete this comment, 2 minutes, or will it even appear at all?

    Have fun in your little world, Don.

    • I am a firm believer in taking advice from people. It’s the way we learn. In general, though, I try not to take advice from people who are either Anti-Semites or the “author” of Black Walnut. Unfortunately, that means I probably won’t take this to heart.

      If we filtered all the news in this state through the standard of what matters to Greg Strandberg, our media, culture, and very society would be much diminished. Bigly.

      But thanks so much for the comment. The readers of your Black Walnut series need you to get back to your “work.”

      • I look forward to reading your future posts, Don. I’m confident they’ll continue to whip-up the base of the MT Democratic Party, which makes up what, about 40% of the state’s voters…if even that?

        I’m confident your posts won’t do anything to expand that base. I do feel confident that they’ll turn independents away, however.

        Maybe that’s a good thing. Why would you want them spoiling your Party with ideas that might appeal to more than just a minority of people in this country?

        Keep writing, Don. There are a few districts that aren’t under GOP control yet. With your help, however, they will be. Mostly I’m thinking the rural districts on the urban fringes. Dems lost two of those here in Missoula last cycle.

        With the Dem message that I keep seeing on this site, I’m sure they’ll lose a few more.

        • I really appreciate the power you believe I have. Who knew I controlled the future of the Democratic party? By your logic, I should be receiving the thanks of Steve Bullock, since I clearly won that race for him, too. Or do I just lose them? It’s hard to understand the machinations of your Anti-Semitic mind.

          Since we’re offering advice, I’ll offer some of my own. Stick to copy and pasting links from Wikipedia about the Jewish conspiracy to control the world’s finances. I think those posts really show off your skills best.

          • I think most people know that 1% of the population owns the world. I’m sure many of those 1% are Jews, just as many are Catholics or Lutherans or what have you. You can focus on that if you’d like, and I can take it. I’ll keep my Illuminati, Freemasons and Rothschilds article up on my homepage, just as I have been for the past 2 years. People love that article.

            I don’t think you control the future of the Democratic Party, however. I figure Jim Larson and Nancy Keenan have more power than you, and we know from the 2016 results that both of them are buffoons.

            At this point, I figure the best thing for Montana is to keep people like Larson and Keenan in place, and people like you writing.

            Clearly, this is a boon for the GOP. Or maybe what you and Nancy and Jim do just doesn’t have any kind of impact at all. After all, Democrats are losing more today than ever before in Montana.

            I expect we’ll continue to see those losses, starting with the special election. No matter who the Dem is, they’re not going to poll more than 40% of the vote. Just look at the history of GOP vs. Dem performance in our U.S. House races:

            2014: 55% to 40%
            2012: 53% to 43%
            2010: 60% to 34%
            2008: 61% to 32%
            2006: 59% to 39%
            2004: 64% to 33%
            2002: 65% to 33%
            2000: 51% to 46%
            1998: 53% to 44%
            1996: 52% to 43%

            Came closest in 2000 with Nancy. Despite that, we have James Conner over at Flathead Memo saying that National wrote-off Montana following that loss.

            That was 16 years ago now.

            I’ll admit, Dems have improved in recent years. We’ve seen you go from the low 30s to the low 40s.

            That’s pretty good – makes losing a little easier, I suppose.

            But you’re still losing. I don’t think what you put on this site is going to change that. I think it’ll make it worse.

            Again, I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing. Democrats in this state are very incompetent. You can’t win. You don’t say what people care about. The issues you push don’t resonate with voters in this state.

            So keep it up. Hope for the impossible. Maybe, just maybe, something will magically change for you.

            • Please tell us more about the 1% who rule the world. It does wonders for your credibility.

              And please explain how Democrats would do better if they followed someone smart like you instead of a “buffoon” like Nancy Keenan. If we could just turn those 183 people who accidentally voted for you into Democratic loyalists, we’d probably sweep ALL of the races.

              • I’d start by firing Nancy Keenan and Jim Larson. I’m not sure who those two are helping, besides themselves.

                After that I’d stop all this nonsense about gay rights and refugee rights and abortion. Montana voters don’t care about that – it’s why Democrats keep losing in many areas of the state.

                In regard to gays, the country just gave them the right to marry. I don’t know what the big deal is, but we keep pushing this tired issue even though gays make up about 6% of the country’s population. Again, the focus on the minorities keeps the Democrats from gaining majorities, especially in this state.

                I’d stop focusing on all these government programs to help poor people. If Montana has such a worker shortage, which is only supposed to get worse, why can’t they find work? I see tons of ads for elder caretakers here in MIssoula. Anyone can do that job, except for the lazy and those that don’t want to give up their government assistance.

                Stop focusing on those poor folks and let them get jobs. All we hear from the legislature these days are how Dems are trying to help all these groups. Great, but it’s just a waste of time – the GOP controls the legislature and doesn’t want to play that game.

                That’s what it’s all about – controlling the legislature. If Dems can do that they can get their way. They can’t get control until they start talking about issues people care about.

                The issues you discuss on this site, Don, I’m sorry, but no one cares about them.

                It’s why we see the U.S. House numbers that I put up in my last comment.

                • I mean, you apparently care about them, right? You are so quick to post here even though by your logic, this site is the insane ramblings of a very minority view that has consequence to no person. Except, you?

                • This is why your opinion is so wrong.

                  The issues you repeatedly say we should dismiss are fundamental human rights. Giving those up to win a few votes is precisely what the fascists want.

                  And if you don’t believe that poverty is a real issue, you need to talk more to people who work full-time jobs and who are still living in poverty. I’d probably also suggest that a person making a living off the sales of badly written books like Black Walnut shouldn’t lecture anyone else about being lazy.

  • i’m not a zinke fan (for many reasons) but i believe this was a matter of mrs hand wanting to spend her last days in santa barbara. if the zinke’s agreed to pay for a minimum of one year i’m sure the courts will rule in the church’s favor. his mother in law lived in the hope ranch subdivision which tells me money isn’t the issue.

  • Another question might be, what the hell is Zinke doing these days? Although he’s still our Congressman, he has missed 77.6% of all votes in the House of Representatives in the last month and a half. This is at the request of President Trump, or maybe a Trump advisor like Bannon or Conway. He’s done with Montana, apparently. (Hat tip to Matthew Koehler.)

    • i’m sure he has some bullshit excuse. i’ll be curious to see if he continues to put his kids on the government payroll.

  • For the past few weeks I’ve noticed that Montana Rep Ryan Zinke has not been voting in Congress.

    Some people on the right claimed that because Trump nominated Zinke to be Interior Secretary that it was illegal for him to vote.

    I doubted that and researched it and there are absolutely no House rules at all that prevent Rep Ryan Zinke from voting.

    Turns out, far as I could tell, that Rep Ryan Zinke has not cast a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives in over 1 month.

    I called Rep Ryan Zinke’s DC office on Friday and was told point blank:

    “The Trump Administration has advised us not to vote.”

    As an aside, the Trump Administration apparently didn’t tell Sen Jeff Sessions not to vote, because he had been casting votes. Then again, the Trump Administration likely needed Sessions vote in the Senate to confirm Betsy DeVos.

    So there you have it.


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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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