It’s clear that Congressman Zinke has stopped working for the people of Montana. His offices don’t take phone calls and the voice mail systems at least two of his offices have been ignored so completely that they are full. And just as Congressman Zinke seems to be ignoring his responsibilities to the people who elected him, the Montana political press seems to be ignoring critical coverage of the state’s Congressman.
One story the press has resolutely ignored is that our Congressman is being sued for his failure to pay tens of thousands of dollars to a D.C.-based church that was housing his mother.
E&E Daily reports that Congressman Zinke is being sued for $66,000 for violating a residential lease agreement involving his mother-in-law:
Zinke also told the committee this month that he’s involved in a “landlord-tenant dispute” pending in the D.C. Superior Court.
In that lawsuit, the Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Washington, D.C., is suing Zinke and his wife, Lolita, for breaching their residential lease agreement.
The church claims that the Zinkes failed to pay rent for the full year of their lease, abandoning the property three months after moving in. The church is seeking more than $66,000 in unpaid rent, including late fees.
The suit was filed in D.C. Superior Court on October 21, 2016, over two full weeks before the November election. Congressman Zinke and his wife were served with the suit in Santa Barbara, California in November before, in Trumpian fashion, filing a counter-suit against the church.
That the suit was filed on October 21, 2016 is especially interesting, given that the Montana Lee papers offered one of the worst stories of the 2016 cycle on October 24, 2016, when they let Zinke pretend to be the victim of a vicious smear about his residency status. In that piece, Zinke offered the same excuse he’s maintained for years to explain why the press and politicians of California believe that he lives in Santa Barbara—that he and his wife were there to care for his aging mother-in-law. Given the shifting nature of their claims about Mrs. Hand, it’s somewhat absurd for the media to take at face value claims that the Zinkes were so frequently in Santa Barbara because they needed to care for her.
It certainly seems relevant to ask when Mrs. Hand was living in the Washington area and when she was in Santa Barbara, not for the sake of prying into the personal life of the Zinke family, but simply to test the truth of his claims. Looking into the lawsuit to determine when Mrs. Hand was living in the D.C. area seems like a reasonable task for reporters, especially given the attention given to claims that Congressman Zinke has not been living in Montana.
And even if there is no new evidence about Congressman Zinke’s choice of residence, surely it’s newsworthy that our Congressman has been sued for failing to pay a sizeable debt to a church, isn’t it? Given the attention paid to marital affairs, decades-old DUI convictions, and plagiarism in academic documents, surely the press in Montana should ask Congressman Zinke to explain why he refuses to honor his debts and a legal agreement. For most Montanans who don’t have Neil Livingstone cutting them checks to run for office (another story the press has ignored), $66,000 would be a great deal of money, and Zinke’s refusal to pay it demands an explanation.
It’s too late to expect real coverage of Ryan Zinke by the Montana press. The damage has already been done by their willful, bizarre refusal to give his shady financial record real attention, but perhaps now, as Congressman Zinke leaves the state, the press can finally do some due diligence and simply report on this case—and demand an explanation.