V.I. Republican Leader Canegata In Spotlight Again

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke

John Canegata, the head of the Virgin Islands Republican Party, is in the midst of a controversy again, but he isn’t talking about it.

Politico, a popular online political journal, reported that Canegata “suggested his fundraising group’s “behind the scenes” relationship with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke helped influence the department’s response to last year’s hurricanes.” Canegata did not respond to phone calls or emails from the Source which wanted to ask whether he made the remarks and, whether influence was based on campaign donations and if so, whether that was ethical.

Canegata was in the middle of raucous split between two factions of the local Republican Party in 2016. His faction won control of the local party as the candidate it supported – Donald Trump – won the presidency.

Crucian resident Herbert Schoenbohm, a member of the faction opposing Canegata, was willing to make a comment about the article. He sent the Source an email that said, “Over the years Mr. Canegata has demonstrated a chronic lack of credibility. This is one more example.”

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Politico was founded by reporters who left the Washington Post in 2006, and according to Forbes magazine “has built itself into a crucial player in politics reporting in the U.S.” It reported Canegata, “said he had direct access to Interior officials after the storm thanks to money his group raised for Zinke, whom he described as a “close friend.”

John Canegata
John Canegata

Zinke, a former congressman, was in the Virgin Islands during its Centennial celebration of Transfer Day last year and attended public events and also a fundraiser organized by local Republicans. He wore dress socks designed like an United States flag to the ceremony in Christiansted.

The article last week was not the first in Politico to make a connection between Zinke and Canegata. In October of last year it had an article headlined “Zinke funneled millions to questionable PACs.” The article questioned the legitimacy of PACs, including VIGOP, raising money and spending most of it on consultants. The New York Times reported in 2014 that only 7 percent of what VIGOP raised actually went to candidates.

The recent Politico article says, “VIGOP is not a typical political party and faces frequent inquiries from the FEC to better explain its fundraising practices and expenses. Some critics, including past Republican clients, say the group bilks conservative donors with promises to fight Democrats while spending the bulk of its money on overhead instead of political advocacy. The group spends the vast majority of its money on a small group of Washington-area political consultants who have also done work for Zinke’s campaign and leadership PACs.”

Mike McQueery, a spokesman for Delegate Stacey Plaskett, says the credit for the federal disaster relief funds should go to his boss. He emailed the Source, “ The work and relationship that Congresswoman Plaskett has with her colleagues ultimately increased the amount to $89 billion {President Trump had originally proposed $45 billion} and made some very important changes in law. First, the Virgin Islands secured supplemental Medicaid funding which included a change to 100 percent federal cost share for such additional funds (something that has not happened in the past but Plaskett requested to be in parity with Louisiana after Katrina), it also contained supplemental federal highway funding on top of ordinary fiscal 2018 funding and waiver of statutory funding caps.”

The remarks Canegata reportedly made about his Zinke ties were in a televised appearance on WTJX Virgin Islands Public Broadcasting that aired last month.

“Secretary Zinke, happens to be, I wouldn’t say a personal friend, but a close friend,” Canegata said, according to Politico, in the broadcast and continued. “Prior to him being the Secretary of Interior, we spent some time in Washington, we spent some time here in the Virgin Islands. We supported him when he was a congressman and, behold, he becomes the Secretary of Interior.”

Canegata did not respond to Politico’s request for a comment either.

The Inspector General of the Department of Interior has investigated the use of a charter plane while in the Virgin Islands and found it acceptable. However, the same report said a use of a $12,000 charter plane allowing Zinke to speak to a hockey team owned by a donor of his could have been avoided.

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  1. The Guvnah said he should be receiving ALL de credit
    & even de rat want credit
    but me nah see where de credit is
    still have trash
    still have tarp
    still no good hospital
    still double session in school
    why dem fight fi dat credit?

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