The Montana GOP Welcomes Back Disgraced Ryan Zinke from the Swamp

Montana Republicans just can’t quit Ryan Zinke, even if his tenure at Interior was marked by enough graft, corruption, and personal enrichment that he was forced out of the most corrupt administration since Harding.

Yesterday, Republican chair Don Kaltschmidt announced that Secretary Zinke would be the “very special guest” speaker at the 2020 Republican kickoff event in Helena.

While it will certainly be nice for Zinke to come back to Montana, a state he hasn’t lived in for years, it’s an interesting choice for the Republican Party, given that Zinke’s poor decision-making at Interior has been so enduring that a judge just reversed his decision to allow the militia-loving Hammond family to use their grazing permit:

A federal judge on Friday revoked the grazing permit for Hammond Ranches Inc., finding that former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s order renewing it early this year was an “abuse of discretion.”

Dwight Hammond Jr. and his youngest son, Steven Hammond, can reapply for a new permit and go through the proper process to obtain one, U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon said.

Neither Zinke or the U.S. Bureau of Land Management made a finding that the Hammonds were in “substantial compliance” with federal grazing regulations or had a “satisfactory history of performance” as required, the judge found.

“Secretary Zinke simply avoided the issue altogether. Under federal law and agency regulations, he may not do this,” Simon wrote in a 41-page ruling issued after he heard oral arguments on Thursday.

It’s certainly troubling that Zinke abused his power as Secretary, but it’s even more troubling that he did it for the Hammonds.

I wonder if Zinke will talk about that. Or the 18 federal investigations into his behavior as Secretary. Or the report that he lied to investigators researching those claims. Or about how he was forced out of office by President Trump. Or how worries that he would face criminal investigation for his backroom dealing with the chair of Halliburton forced Trump’s hand.

Perhaps he’ll talk about, after railing endlessly about the D.C. swamp, he immediately took a job at a lobbying firm headed by Corey Lewandowski and another at a gold mining company that is pursuing federal projects.

My guess is that he won’t mention any of this, but I do hope that the Delta Colonial in Helena is prepared to fly his special flag when he arrives.

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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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  • Don’t forget Zinke’s first act as Sec of the Interior was to roll back restrictions on lead ammo, leading to the suffering and death of untold predators that eat the meat of an animal shot with lead. This was Zinke’s way of repaying the NRA for BUYING him his congressional seat. You don’t get much more evil than that in my book….

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