Former Trump administration official and current Republican Montana congressional candidate Ryan Zinke has for the second time in a row missed the deadline for filing a financial disclosure statement that’s required of all congressional candidates.
A second round of economic disclosures were attributable to the clerk of the House of Representatives on May 16 — a couple of weeks before the June 7 primary election in Montana. Zinke missed the deadline without filing a request for an extension, in accordance with documents on the clerk’s database.
As Montana’s former at-large House member, Zinke and his team must be well aware of economic disclosure rules — especially since he made headlines just last 12 months for breaking a deadline. At the moment, his campaign blamed its error on the House clerk’s office, saying it was given misinformation that the primary report was due in May 2022.
Zinke’s repeated failure to follow candidate disclosure rules comes as his history of ethics scandals and lucrative post-government work for oil, gas and mining interests have taken center stage within the race for Montana’s newly created congressional seat. Zinke eked out a victory in last week’s GOP primary and can face Democrat Monica Tranel, a two-time Olympic rower and environmental lawyer, in November’s general election.
On Wednesday, Tranel sent a letter calling on the U.S. attorney’s office in Montana to research each Zinke’s failure to file essentially the most recent report in addition to income that he reported in his first disclosure last 12 months.
“As an attorney my clients and I depend on the proven fact that everyone seems to be playing by the identical set of laws, rules, and processes,” the letter states. “I urge you to please look into the actions of Mr. Zinke and hold him accountable for his failure to act.”
Zinke’s campaign didn’t reply to a request for comment Wednesday.
The House Committee on Ethics doesn’t comment on individual candidates’ financial disclosures; nevertheless, its instruction guide on financial reporting clearly outlines that candidates’ first disclosure statements are due inside 30 days of raising $5,000 and that a second should be submitted no later than May 16, 2022.
When Zinke did finally file his initial report in November, months after it was due, it revealed that he’d raked in greater than $1.3 million for consulting and other services within the two years after stepping down as President Donald Trump’s interior secretary.
That income included $460,000 from oil giant ConocoPhillips, $135,000 from mining exploration company U.S. Gold Corp. and not less than $5,000 each from several other fossil fuel interests. He also listed $410,000 in earnings from a “JVL Enterprises” of Dallas, but HuffPost could find no lively JVL Enterprises in Dallas. A review of Texas corporations with “JVL” of their names would indicate Zinke likely consulted for JVL Advisors LLC, an oil and gas investment firm in Houston. The corporate’s founder and managing partner, John Lovoi, sits on the board of several other fossil fuel corporations, including Roan Resources, Epsilon Energy, Helix Energy Solutions and Dril-Quip.
Zinke’s campaign didn’t previously reply to HuffPost’s request for clarification about which JVL he consulted for and the apparent error in its filing.
Tranel flagged the JVL discrepancy in her Wednesday letter, writing that it “raises serious questions on the truthfulness and veracity of his previous disclosure report that must be examined.” She also noted that the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 allows the U.S. attorney general to pursue civil motion against “any individual who knowingly and willfully falsifies or who knowingly and willfully fails to file” a disclosure report, with a maximum penalty of $66,190.
“Idiot Montanans once, shame on us. Attempt to idiot us again, shame on scandal-plagued Ryan Zinke,” Tranel said in an email statement to HuffPost. “Zinke has lied to Montanans, lied to investigators, and lied under oath.”
“Nobody is above the law, and each voter should query Zinke’s motives and what he’s attempting to hide from voters,” she added.
Democratic U.S. House nominee Monica Tranel talks with a supporter at a June 7 election watch event in Missoula, Montana. She says “every voter should query Zinke’s motives and what he’s attempting to hide.”
Tom Bauer/The Missoulian via Associated Press
In her initial financial disclosure last 12 months, Tranel reported stocks and funds price between $2.5 million and $6.2 million and $75,000 in income between January 2020 and August 2021 from her work as an attorney. (The filings require broad ranges of economic disclosures quite than precise figures.) Her clients included several renewable energy corporations. Her most up-to-date filing, dated May 16, shows her income has remained regular — $50,000 in 2021 and $25,000 up to now in 2022 — and minor changes to her total assets. Tranel’s campaign manager, Sam Sterling, acknowledged having mistakenly filed the second disclosure as an amendment to the primary. On the clerk’s direction, the campaign subsequently refiled it on May 18 as a latest, separate report. Each versions appear on the clerk’s disclosure database.
Zinke has largely avoided having to speak about his recent work for drilling and mining interests that he spent two years regulating as head of the large Department of the Interior. However the timing of that industry work could change into a serious issue ahead of the November election, as much of it occurred while he was already running for office on a pledge to lower gas prices and restore the Trump administration’s fossil fuel “energy dominance” agenda. For roughly eight months after launching his campaign in April 2021, Zinke collected a big paycheck from ConocoPhillips.
Evan Barrett, a longtime Democratic policy and economic adviser in Montana who’s now assisting with Tranel’s campaign, said of Zinke earlier this month: “For those who’re running for Congress and asking people to be for you because you should be their servant when you are getting paid as an adviser to a profiteering oil company, there’s some query about where your allegiance lies.”
Ahead of Montana’s primary, candidates on each side of the aisle painted Zinke as a self-serving, corrupt politician. In a single campaign ad, Tranel carried a snake in a shovel and said, “Growing up on a ranch in Montana, I learned easy methods to cope with snakes. And we now have an actual poisonous one in Ryan Zinke.” The ad goes on to rehash the findings of a February report from the Interior Department’s internal watchdog, which concluded that Zinke violated ethics rules and misused his office together with his continued involvement in an actual estate project in his hometown of Whitefish, Montana, and that he lied to investigators about it.
Zinke has repeatedly dismissed ethics probes into his conduct as political attacks and falsely claimed that they ultimately cleared him of wrongdoing. And he and his team blamed his surprisingly unimpressive performance in last week’s Republican primary on Democrats’ “fraudulent election tactics” and the negative ads that opposing candidates ran against him.