Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has directed millions of dollars in political contributions since 2014 to a network of Washington operatives that prominent conservatives have accused of profiting by misleading donors.
Beneficiaries of Zinke’s largesse include groups linked to Washington-area political operative Scott B. Mackenzie, organizer of a Virgin Islands GOP political action committee that hosted the secretary at a St. Croix fundraiser in March. Before that, when Zinke was a Republican congressman from Montana, his political operation steered significant portions of its spending to a handful of Washington, D.C.-area consulting firms that also have had ties to Mackenzie and his associates.
Zinke has continued this relationship even as other Republicans have recoiled from dealing with Mackenzie, whose critics say he operates “scam PACs” that raise small-dollar donations from conservative voters but then spend the bulk of the money on consultants and overhead. The critics include former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who filed a suit accusing Mackenzie and other defendants of running a “national fundraising scam” after they gave his 2013 campaign for governor less than a half percent of the money they had raised in his name.