POLITICS
08/08/2018 04:50 pm ET

10 Bizarre Gifts Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Has Received

A piece of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. A copy of "Dumb and Dumber." $100.11 cash.
George Frey via Getty Images

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke appreciates nice things. His historic office at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., features a bronze bust of his hero Theodore Roosevelt and a replica skull of a dinosaur discovered in one of the national monuments he helped shrink. Then there’s the slew of taxidermy creatures: a bobcat, a bison named “Rosie” and a grizzly bear that Teddy apparently shot.

Since taking over the Interior Department in March 2017, Zinke has also accepted approximately 250 gifts, according to records HuffPost obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request. There are dozens of books, several pairs of patriotic socks, a hand-painted Navy SEAL duck decoy and a historic section of the original Oregon and California Railroad, inscribed with the secretary’s name.

Here’s a look at some of the more bizarre items Zinke has received. 

1. “U.S. Department of Alternative Facts” T-Shirt

Zinke and his team are often quick to dismiss unfavorable news stories ― including recent reports about his ties to a real estate deal backed by the chairman of energy giant Halliburton ― as “fake news.” But he himself is no stranger to false statements, perhaps most famously referring to himself as a geologist despite having never worked as one.

In July, a Donald Schreiber sent Zinke a T-shirt that features a picture of the White House and the words “U.S. Department of Alternative Facts.” 

By The Washington Post’s count, President Donald Trump has uttered more than 4,200 false or misleading statements.

Interior Department

2. A Personalized Hard Hat

In March, Phil Baker, the CEO of Hecla Mining Company, sent Zinke a hard hat inscribed with “Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.”

Zinke’s support for the Idaho-based company goes back to his time as a Montana Congressman. Zinke has toured Hecla’s sites and the company donated to his 2016 congressional campaign. In a May 2016 interview with One America News Network, Zinke called for officials to approve a pair of new mines that Hecla has been pushing for years to open in Montana. Zinke called it a “good project” that should have been approved a decade earlier, and said there is “no environmental hazard with mining.” 

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has labeled Hecla a “bad actor” because of a legacy of pollution by Baker’s former company, Pegasus Gold of Spokane, Washington. Baker was the chief financial officer of Pegasus when it went bankrupt in 1998, leaving behind three contaminated mine sites in Montana. The ongoing cleanup of contaminants has cost $100 million, according to The Associated Press.

During an industry listening session last fall, Baker complained to Zinke about “impediments to mining from the permitting regime we have.” Zinke quickly responded by saying, “On behalf of the United States government, we apologize.”

Interior Department

3. A Pipe From Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline

The Alyeska Pipeline Service Company gave Zinke a decommissioned pipe from its Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. The section apparently came from Pump Station 10, north of Glennallen.

Zinke traveled to Alaska in May 2017, where he and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) posed for a photo alongside the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Days later, he signed a secretarial order to “jump-start” oil production in Alaska, including in the pristine Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge.

Alaska, Zinke declared at the time, is “open for business.”

Interior Department

4. A Constitution, Courtesy Of His Friends At Fox Business

When Zinke wants to get his message out, he knows he can count on a softball interview from his friends at Fox Business. He’s appeared on the show at least four times since taking over at the Interior Department, including to defend Trump’s decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan and to claim that a border wall will protect the environment.  

Before Christmas, Maria Bartiromo, the global markets editor at Fox Business Network, sent Zinke a pocket-size copy of the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. 

Interior Department

5. Climate Denier Books

In February, Gregory Wrightstone, a geologist whom climate change denial groups like the right-wing Heartland Institute have embraced, gave Zinke a copy of his book, Inconvenient Facts ― The Science That Al Gore Doesn’t Want You To Know.

Zinke received a second copy of the book from an unknown individual. 

Interior Department

6. A Benjamin, And Some Change

In January, a person named Melani C. Deer sent Zinke $100.11 in cash “to thank the Secretary for doing a great job,” according to the documents. The agency notes that it returned the money to the sender along with a letter explaining why Zinke could not accept the gift. 

A Melani C. Deer, of Honolulu, Hawaii, donated $127 to Zinke’s 2016 congressional campaign. A “melanic deer” is also a deer with a rare mutation that causes its hair to turn black. 

Interior Department

7. “Be Nice” T-Shirts 

In July 2017, a couple of months after Zinke visited Bears Ears National Monument ― one of two protected sites in Utah that he and Trump later gutted ― members of the San Juan County Commission sent the secretary more than a dozen T-shirts with the logo “Be Nice.” 

It’s unclear if the shirts are a reference to a confrontation Zinke had with a protester during his visit to Bears Ears. Zinke became irked with Cassandra Begay, a tribal liaison with the group Peaceful Advocates for Native Dialogue & Organizing Support, after she repeatedly asked why he hadn’t spent more time talking with tribal leaders as part of his national monuments review. 

“Be nice,” Zinke forcefully told Begay, holding his finger up near her face.  

Members of the San Juan County Commission fiercely opposed the Bears Ears monument and celebrated Trump’s rollback. 

Bizarrely, each T-shirt came with a Tootsie Pop.

Interior Department

8. “Dumb and Dumber” Movie

American film producer Brad Krevoy sent Zinke two of his movies: “Dumb and Dumber” and “Taking Chance.” Together they are valued at $12.89.

Interior Department

9. Mexico Extends An Avocado Branch

In May, Gerónimo Gutiérrez Fernández, Mexico’s ambassador to the U.S., sent Zinke a case of 18 avocados. The value: $18.

Interior Department

10. A “Stuffed Rat”

In December, Zinke received a hat and a “stuffed rat” from Big Cypress National Preserve. Your guess is as good as ours. 

Interior Department

Here’s a full list of gifts Zinke received between March 1 and Aug. 7:

Zinke Gifts by Anonymous MMpWso on Scribd

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