Pruitt's EPA security broke in to lobbyist condo
- Author: Rogelio Becker Apr 02, 2018,
Apr 02, 2018, 10:14
She is married to J. Steven Hart, a lobbyist whose firm represents clients in the energy sector among other industries. According to Bloomberg, "the payments covered Pruitt's room in the two-bedroom unit, but did not afford him liberal use of common areas". That effort includes groups like the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, and League of Conservation Voters, who argue that Pruitt's decisions benefit the oil and gas industries. He has also been criticized for removing environmental information from the EPA's website. He has also lobbied on behalf of Cheniere Energy, a developer of liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals in the United States.
Following the news about Pruitt's apartment deal, Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) called for Pruitt to resign or be fired. To begin, Pruitt only paid for the nights he actually spent in the apartment, rather than renting it on a monthly basis as one would for a permanent residence. "My wife does not, and has not ever lobbied the EPA on any matters". Hart's wife, Vicki, co-owns the property. Hart and his firm have donated more than $600,000 to political candidates this year.
Patrick Sullivan, the EPA's assistant inspector general for investigations, told CNN that Pruitt has received four to five times the amount of death threats as previous EPA chief Gina McCarthy.
"I don't conclude that this is a prohibited gift at all".
But even if it was a gift, she reasoned, it would have been permissible because Pruitt is friends with the Hart couple, so it would have been an example of what's called a "gift exception" from friends.
The EPA would not provide further details beyond that.
Walter M. Shaub Jr., who until last July was the director of the Office of Government Ethics, pointed out that federal ethics guidelines say that "employees should consider declining gifts when they believe that their integrity or impartiality would be questioned if they were to accept the gift".
A House oversight committee and the EPA's inspector general are reviewing Pruitt's travel spending. Sources told ABC News that Pruitt was groggy and rising from a nap. James Inhofe, the Republican senator expected to retire at the end of his term.
Steven Hart defended the arrangement in a statement via his lobbying firm. "I have had no lobbying contact with the EPA in 2017 or 2018 for the 2 clients listed or any others".
Copies of Pruitt's daily calendar obtained by the AP through a public records request show that Pruitt held a March 2017 meeting in his EPA office with OGE Chairman and CEO Sean Trauschke and company vice president Paul Renfrow.
Hart did not respond to a request for comment.
Interested in Trump Administration?EPA has also moved to scrap regulations cutting power plant emissions of such toxic substances as mercury, as well as tighter standards on dumps containing coal ash.
If Pruitt can establish a long, personal relationship with either or both of the lobbyists - one where, if he visited D.C.in the past in his capacity as Oklahoma attorney general he would have been offered the same deal - then this might be exempt from the ethics rules.