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Montana Politics Ryan Zinke

Heather Swift, Former Spokesperson for Ryan Zinke, Under Fire For Politicizing FOIA Requests

Heather Swift, the former spokeswoman for disgraced former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is under new scrutiny after recent reports of her interference in Freedom of Information Act requests while at the Interior Department.

According to Roll Call, it has come to light that under Zinke, it was made standard practice for political appointees like Swift to review requested documents before they were released, sometimes withholding information she deemed unnecessary or “non-responsive.”

In one example given in the article, after an information official had identified 96 pages of documents that would be released to fill a FOIA request, Swift stepped in and asked that additional political staff be included in the decision. In the end, over protestations from career Interior employees who specialize in these requests, the final documents that were released had been reduced to only 16 pages.

Those redactions were centered around e-mails between Interior staffers and Ryan Zinke’s wife, who repeatedly came under fire to abusing resources at Interior.

In June, the Western Values Project, an environmental group critical of the Trump administration, sent a public records request to the National Park Service for emails between an official at the agency and Lolita Zinke, the former Interior secretary’s wife.

To absolutely no one’s surprise, it looks an awful lot like Zinke and his former campaign staff who followed him to Washington, D.C. were working pretty hard to restrict the flow of information to the public. And it’s hardly surprising that Swift, who boasted about inventing Zinke’s “Teddy Roosevelt brand,” was leading the charge.

What’s more, it seems the Interior Department has now expanded this policy to cover information and correspondence from former officials, like, say, Ryan Zinke. Even out of office, and in his cushy new lobbying job, Zinke is still trying to hide from Montanans.

Ryan Zinke rode in on a horse promising to drain the D.C. swamp, but his tarnished legacy is that of just another grifting opportunist who used his time in D.C. to enrich himself and undermine democratic norms.

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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  • I’ve heard it said that, “People get the government they deserve.” That certainly applies to the low-wattage bulbs who have supported and voted for Zinke and the so-called president. They have gotten the most corrupt, dishonest, and incompetent administration in US history.

    Unfortunately, the rest of us end up with a government we DON’T deserve. Ironically, that would still be the outcome if the 2016 election had gone the other way. We would have gotten a competent, responsive, caring administration, and so would the people who voted for Zinke and the Liar-in-Chief.

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