Utah Rep. Rob Bishop calls for records on all interior secretary travel — back to Obama’s first term

House Resources chairman makes clear he believes Secretary Ryan Zinke did nothing wrong in chartering $12,000 flight home.<br>

Steve Griffin / The Salt Lake Tribune U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop meets with the Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board at the paper's offices in Salt Lake City Monday September 19, 2016.

Washington • After the Interior Department’s inspector general opened an inquiry into Secretary Ryan Zinke’s use of taxpayer-funded charter and military planes, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, is asking the department for all documents related to such travel dating back to then-President Barack Obama’s inauguration.

The request by Bishop, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, asks Zinke for any travel by the interior secretary since Jan. 20, 2009, that used “government-owned, rented, leased or chartered aircraft.”

Zinke is one of the latest Cabinet members to come under fire for flying on private planes at taxpayers’ expense. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned from office after news reports that he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on private planes in his nine months in office.

Zinke took a four-hour private flight from Las Vegas to his home in Montana on a plane owned by a Wyoming oil-and-gas company, according to The Washington Post. The charter cost taxpayers $12,000.

The inspector general’s review will also look at Zinke’s mixing of official trips with political appearances, The Post reported.

Bishop, in a letter to Zinke, defends the secretary, noting that Rep. Raúl Grijalva, the Natural Resources Committee’s top Democrat, ignores in his complaints that there was no commercial flight available that met Zinke’s schedule and ethics officials cleared the flight. But given the recent concerns, Bishop says he wants the Interior to show its policies and guidelines for noncommercial travel as well as the dates, destinations, purpose and costs involved shuttling the interior secretary since 2009.

Bishop’s timetable would cover not only Zinke but former secretaries Ken Salazar and Sally Jewell.

Ethical guidelines are on the books to promote transparency and responsible use of taxpayer dollars,” Bishop said in a statement. “Federal officials should be held to the highest ethical standard in adhering to these rules.”

When violations occur, the public deserves to know,” Bishop added. “When willful violations occur, there should be consequences. When partisan opportunists conflate diligent conformance to scandal, no one wins. Let’s get all facts on the table, ensure taxpayers are protected and proceed with the people’s business.”

Bishop’s request demands the documents by Oct. 17.