Monday, October 9, 2017

Watchdog Group Requests Hatch Act Probe of Zinke's Appearance in Virgin Islands

A Watchdog Group is asking the Justice Department’s Office of Special Council (OSC) to Open a Hatch Act Investigation into Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke appearance at a Political Fundraiser in the U.S. Virgin Islands while on an Official Trip less than a month after being Confirmed.

Donors who gave the Virgin Islands Republican Party between $1,500 and $5,000 per Couple were invited to get their Photos taken with Zinke at the March 30th Event, according to Zinke’s Official Schedule.

The Nonprofit Campaign Legal Center says that Activity may have run afoul of the Federal Law Prohibiting Federal Officials from using Government Resources to Engage in Partisan Political Activity. “This activity constitutes impermissible solicitation of political contributions if event organizers conditioned the opportunity to take a photograph with Secretary Zinke on paying a higher fee,” writes Walter Shaub, the Campaign Legal Center’s Senior Director for Ethics, in a request to the OSC.

The Invitation to the Event said Donors could get into the Event at a St. Croix Hotel with a Contribution of as little as $75. Zinke’s Official Schedule from that day said he participated in a Photo Line with “host committee” Members and “patrons” at the Event. Those Designations were given to Donors who gave $1,500 or $5,000 per Couple, according to the Invitation.

Shaub, a former Director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, asked the OSC to Investigate whether Lower-Paying Guests also were allowed into the Photo Line. “Should OSC determine that this privilege was reserved for host committee members and Patrons, OSC should take action against Secretary Zinke,” he writes.

Interior Officials have said all of Zinke's Travel was Legal and Cleared in Advance with Ethics Officials.

Should that Statement be challenged?

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