Zinke Faces Legal Complaint for Failing to Report Contributions and Misusing Campaign Funds


Today, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke violated campaign finance law by failing to report tens of thousands of dollars of contributions received and for using campaign funds for the personal benefit of himself and his family.

Zinke failed to report the identity of multiple individuals who contributed thousands of dollars to his campaign through a joint fundraising committee, potentially concealing contributions in excess of federal limits.

Additionally, several transactions indicate Zinke converted campaign funds to personal use. For example, in April 2016 the Zinke campaign bought a motorhome from Zinke’s wife for $59,100, spent thousands of dollars maintaining the vehicle, then sold it in July 2017 to a friend for just $25,000. If the campaign paid Zinke’s wife above market rate for the vehicle, or sold it to Zinke’s friend below market rate, then it illegally converted funds to personal use. Other transactions, such as a hotel stay in the U.S. Virgin Islands and a five-star hotel in New York City, were misreported on Zinke’s FEC reports and may raise additional questions about personal use.

“A campaign’s most basic legal obligation is to publicly disclose its major donors, so the Zinke campaign’s failure to provide that information is very concerning,” said Adav Noti, senior director, trial litigation and strategy at CLC, who previously served as the FEC’s Associate General Counsel for Policy. “And selling a major campaign asset to the candidate’s friend at half price is inherently suspect. The FEC must enforce the longstanding ban on using campaign money for personal benefits.”

“The Zinke campaign failed to disclose thousands in contributions, misreported thousands of dollars in spending, and may have misused campaign funds,” said Brendan Fischer, director, federal and FEC reform at CLC. “The public has a right to know who is funding a candidate and how a candidate is spending that money, but Zinke has disregarded even these basic accountability requirements.”