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Wednesday May 5th, 2021 9:17PM

Former Trump official Zinke eyes Montana's new US House seat

By The Associated Press
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HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Former Montana congressman and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke filed paperwork Thursday signaling his interest in running for the second U.S. House seat awarded to the state earlier this week.

Zinke filed documents with the Federal Election Commission to organize the “Zinke for Congress” campaign committee. Montana on Monday was awarded a second U.S. House seat starting in 2023, based on the most recent U.S. Census results. The district boundaries have yet to be set, but the election is slated for November 2022.

A call to a number believed to be Zinke's rang unanswered Thursday, and there was no voicemail set up. A call to the campaign's treasurer, Lorna Kuney, was not immediately returned.

Zinke is a former U.S. Navy Seal who served in the Montana Senate from 2009 to 2013. He was Montana's lone U.S. House member from 2015 to 2017 before then-President Donald Trump appointed him to head the Department of Interior in early 2017.

During almost two years overseeing an agency responsible for managing 500 million acres of public lands, Zinke on behalf of Trump enacted broad rollbacks of restrictions on oil and gas drilling that were cheered by industry. But they brought a scathing backlash from environmental groups and Democratic lawmakers who accused him of putting corporate profits ahead of preservation.

Zinke resigned from the Interior post in December 2018 amid several investigations that he said were politically motivated and that “created an unfortunate distraction” in fulfilling the agency's mission.

The investigations included a probe into his decision to reject a casino in Connecticut sought by two tribes. That later led a grand jury investigation on whether Zinke had lied to the Department of Justice about the rejection, according to the Washington Post.

There is no public court record of any federal charges being filed against him in the case. Several other investigations into Zinke concluded with no findings of wrongdoing.

Just four months out of office, he landed a more than $100,000-a-year post at a Nevada mining company, U.S. Gold Corp., and continues to serve on the company's board of directors, according to the company.

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