Opinion

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Closing Range

Shootout

I’m kind of hoping Mr. Grijalva sets up some hearings to investigate Mr. Zinke

Our hometown Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke made some national headlines after Thanksgiving. In response to a USA Today opinion column by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona) demanding Zinke resign for “ethical and managerial failings,” Zinke responded by tweeting Grijalva was writing “from the bottom of the bottle.”

Fireworks to come? Yep! For the last eight years, Rep. Grijalva has been in the minority on the House Natural Resources Committee, but with the Democrats back on top, he will be chairman, with power over the Interior Department.

Grijalva’s problem? While he can hold (and control) committee hearings, he can’t directly set Interior policy except through law. Any law that might pass out of the House needs to go through the Senate and President Trump before it has any effect on Zinke or Interior.

Is there another way Grijalva can “get” Zinke? Well, as with just about every other Trump appointee, Zinke has been hammered from the start by “unending ethical questions.” Why? In Politics 101, we learn that if one can’t win a political argument on merit, or if one is losing on the merits, then the way to win is by SUCCESSFULLY sliming one’s opponents.

Right now, according to a Web page from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Zinke has been under 17 investigations during his tenure. Yet I expect Secretary Zinke will be vindicated rather than shamed into resigning. Why?

Well, the meatiest investigation is probably the 95 Karrow affair, well-covered here in the Flathead, but atrociously mangled by the hotshots at the Washington Post, Politico and other “news” providers. The central allegation? As Grijalva wrote, “personal enrichment,” which is flat-out bogus. The facts are, Whitefish City Council set the conditions for 95 Karrow, and their subsequent silence is shameful.

However, it’s another of the many “watchdog” complaints lodged against Zinke that is most enlightening. Remember the socks? Zinke took a picture of his Make America Great Again socks and posted it to Twitter. Within hours, Campaign for Accountability (which I’ve covered before, 2015, 2017, 2018) filed a complaint that Zinke had violated the Hatch Act barring federal employees from politicking while working. Seriously?

Now, imagine if it was your job to stare at someone’s Twitter feed, ready to crank out complaints to the Office of Special Counsel on short notice. Would you want such a job? No, but there are people who love to hide in the shadows doing this kind of dirty work.

Don’t think so? Well, the Campaign’s website, of course, was anonymously registered though GoDaddy in January 2015. That helps credibility, doesn’t it?

Even more credible, CfA’s complaint “address of record” is 611 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, #337, in DC’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. But #337 can’t be a third-floor office, because 611 is a TWO-story building. Guess what else? The ground floor of 611 is, and somehow nobody should be surprised, a UPS Store — #337 is a mailbox, a fine kennel for a “watchdog.”

Most credible of all, CfA’s public telephone number, (202) 780-5750, which professional journalists call for interviews, is listed by Whitepages as a “non-fixed” VoIP (Voice over Internet Phone). Whitepages defines VoIP numbers as “disposable” and “ideal for spammers” — basically an Internet version of a burner phone.

Impressed? Sure, but there’s good news. A human actually registered that VoIP phone: Anne L. Weismann. She left a Chief Counsel job at CREW (see above) to create CfA and has now moved back to CREW. More interesting, however, is the address Weismann used to register the phone — identical to that of the Bonner Group, which the New York Times profiled in 2015 as the “Secret World of a Well-Paid ‘Donor-Advisor’ in Politics.” One top Bonner client: David Brock, who happily told the Times “[t]he Bonner Group gets us the best fund-raising product for the lowest cost.” Yep, and if you think Mr. Brock is unaware of Ms. Weismann, keep in mind Mr. Brock, the Left’s most-talented disinformationist, was CREW board president 2014-2017.

So, I’m kind of hoping Mr. Grijalva sets up some hearings to investigate Mr. Zinke. But once this shootout begins, I don’t think Mr. Zinke will be the one withering under what is sure to be close scrutiny. Get your popcorn ready.