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Ryan Zinke

Former Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke

WASHINGTON — A government watchdog says former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke didn't engage in illegal political activity when he went to Pennsylvania about a year ago to announce federal grants shortly before a special House election.

The Office of Special Counsel released its finding this week clearing Zinke, saying the coal dump site where he announced the nationwide grants, including $55 million for Pennsylvania, to clean up mines was an appropriate choice.

A federal law known as the Hatch Act bars executive branch officials from engaging in some kinds of political activities.

Federal officials were asked to examine whether Zinke made the trip to boost the GOP candidate, Rick Saccone, who ended up losing the congressional election to Democrat Conor Lamb.

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President Donald Trump announced Zinke's resignation in December amid a series of ethics investigations involving the interior secretary. Other investigations stemming from Zinke's tenure are continuing.

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