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The lair and lies of Scott Pruitt

Kakistocracy’s new gold standard



Former Okla. Attorney General and current EPA Chief Scott Pruitt

Gage Skidmore

By the time you read this, Environmental Protection Agency Director Scott Pruitt may have been fired, could be flying to Hilton Head on a private jet owned by an industry lobbyist, or might have just been named the chief law enforcement officer in the country.

It’s how Donald Trump rolls.

But I digress. I think.

Considering Pruitt’s almost paranoid need for secrecy, his motorcades, his sense of entitlement, and his relentless arrogance, there are precisely 2,459 things that stink about his reign at EPA—not including the actual stench of the air and water that he and his agency are no longer protecting.

But let’s begin at my father’s retirement center here in Tulsa.

Stay with me.

Recently my dad went to New York for six weeks, and when I notified his resident manager, she said, “We won’t be able to prorate his rent.”

“Of course not,” I said. “Who would expect such a thing?”

For much of his first year in Washington, President Trump’s EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt occupied prime real estate in a townhouse near the U.S. Capitol that is co-owned by the wife of a top energy lobbyist, property records from 2017 show.1

Let’s stop for a moment to underscore that Scott Pruitt, if not literally in bed with a lobbyist, was in the bed of a lobbyist.

Under that arrangement, Pruitt paid for a room in the condo a block from the Capitol but only paid for the nights he stayed.2

He only paid for the nights he stayed? How the hell? My dad should get such deal.

And how much did Pruitt pay for this Washington D.C. condo a block from the Capitol? Fifty bucks a night.

For comparison, the Motel 6 in Catoosa is $70/night.

Who owns the condo?

The New York Times reported … that a client of [Vicki] Hart’s firm, Williams & Jensen, received EPA approval for an oil pipeline project while Pruitt rented a room in Hart’s home.3

For the love of a campaign contribution, why doesn’t Pruitt just wrap himself in a string of lights and an “Open for Business” necklace and jump up and down on K Street?

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt was at times slow to pay the rent on his $50-per-night lease in a Capitol Hill condo, according to two people with knowledge of the situation—forcing his lobbyist landlord to pester him for payment.4

Pruitt is nothing, however, if not selectively indignant.

As part of his directive, Pruitt said he will bar appointees who currently are in receipt of EPA grants or who are in a position to benefit from such grants. He exempted people who work at state, local, or tribal agencies, saying he wants to introduce more “geographic diversity” to the panels.5

He’ll bar scientists who work with EPA grants because of potential conflicts of interest, but he has no problem using the shower and coffeemaker of an EPA lobbyist.

How does the man sleep?

Very well, apparently.

The Harts’ first apparent contribution to Pruitt was a $500 donation in October of 2010, about two weeks before Pruitt was first elected [Oklahoma] attorney general. They donated $1,000 the following year and $250 the year after. When Pruitt ran for reelection in 2014, Steven Hart footed the bill for a fundraising reception benefiting his campaign. After he was reelected, Pruitt set up a federal political committee that made contributions to allied Republicans. Hart donated to that group in 2015.6

From insisting on a “cone of silence” to conduct agency business,7 to his insistence on first class air travel to avoid the riffraff in coach,8 to shoveling associates raises,9 to firing agency officials who refuse to cover for him,10 Pruitt is a tin-eared, Bible-thumping, vindictive, climate-denying, industry-controlled zealot and snowflake. When he was Oklahoma’s attorney general, you could always find him with his hands out.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has repeatedly sued the Environmental Protection Agency to try to block Obama administration rules intended to protect the nation’s air and water. In all but one of these 14 cases, regulated industry players also were parties.11

It’s that last part that makes it art, for he was (and is) a girl Friday for the very industries he regulates, including, when the masters require it, taking simple dictation.

“Outstanding!” William F. Whitsitt, who at the time directed government relations at the company, said in a nice note to Mr. Pruitt’s office. The attorney general’s staff had taken Devon [Energy]’s draft, copied it onto state government stationery with only a few word changes, and sent it to Washington with the attorney general’s signature. “The timing of the letter is great, given our meeting this Friday with both E.P.A. and the White House.”12

In 2012, he sold out Oklahomans on a $25 billion mortgage settlement because a) President Obama favored it, and b) he felt the terms were too tough on … the bankers.

“We had concerns that what started as an effort to correct specific practices harmful to consumers morphed into an attempt by President Barack Obama to establish an overarching regulatory scheme, which Congress had previously rejected, to fundamentally restructure the mortgage industry in the United States,” Pruitt said. It started “being co-opted by Washington to turn into something to fix the housing market. That’s not the role of the attorney general.”13

He’s a states’ rights advocate, too, except when he’s not, once comparing Colorado to a drug cartel because some of its recently-legalized marijuana found its way to Oklahoma.

“If this entity were based south of our border, the federal government would prosecute it as a drug cartel,” the attorneys
general wrote.”14

He was in favor of the Ten Commandments monument,15 defended Sharia Law legislation,16 and mucked around with Oklahoma’s own marijuana initiative.17 With Pruitt, come for the sycophancy; stay for the incompetence, greed, and sanctimony.

“If you can tell me what gun, type of gun, I can possess, then I didn’t really get that right to keep and bear arms from God,” [Pruitt] said. “It was not bequeathed to me, it was not unalienable, right?”18

To Pruitt, guns come from god, global warming is a myth, the extraction industry should be unfettered, Islam “is not so much a religion as it is a terrorist organization, in many instances,” and political hacks and cronies always deserve a second chance.

At EPA, Pruitt gave a friend, Albert Kelly, who the FDIC sued for $125,000 and who was banned from the banking industry for life, a job to help clean up Superfund programs.19

Even the White House has noticed.

Pruitt’s challenges appeared to deepen when White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders—asked why Trump is “OK” with the leader of the Environmental Protection Agency renting a condo from a lobbyist for $50 a night—responded that “the president’s not.”20

Do you know how tough it is to offend Donald Trump’s sensibilities?

But this is what happens in an administration where people like Pruitt (Ben Carson, Betsy DeVos, Jeff Sessions can take a bow, as well), appointed to run agencies and departments, hate government and those who depend on it. The Vicki Harts of the world don’t get Black Lung Disease, the Albert Kellys of the world don’t drink water infused with lead and fecal coliform bacteria from Flint, and the William Whitsitts of the world don’t live downwind from the Koch plant in Crossett, Ark., which has one of the highest rates of exposure to cancer-causing toxins in the nation.21 Unless you think the job of the EPA director is to enrich the already rich and destroy the environment, all while gorging himself on the public teat, Scott Pruitt should have been fired … yesterday. He is the corruption and incompetence in government he and his boss rail against.

And the absolute horror of it all is not this:

President Donald Trump floated replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions with Scott Pruitt … even as the scandal-ridden head of the Environmental Protection Agency has faced a growing list of negative headlines, according to people close to the
President.

 “He was 100% still trying to protect Pruitt because Pruitt is his fill-in for Sessions,” one source familiar with Trump’s thinking told CNN.22

… It’s this:

But few seemed to notice that Scott Pruitt’s behavior changed as well. While Trump’s Republican support was solid in the first half of the year, Pruitt’s travel was overwhelmingly to Oklahoma. But in the second half of the year, he began traveling more nationally.  Politico reported that he has now visited “25 mostly Republican-led states … spending time with GOP leaders and influential industries and packing in as many media hits as possible.”23

Scott Pruitt wants to be president.

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