Whitehouse: “Hard to Believe” Pruitt Is Powerless to Come Clean on Potential Conflicts of Interest
Pruitt telling Senators to submit open records requests to his office “suggestive of an effort to hide information from the Senate before his confirmation,” Senator writes
Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) wants to know why it can take over two years for Scott Pruitt’s office to produce documents under Oklahoma’s Open Records Act – and why he thinks Senators should get at the back of that line to get information on his record. Pruitt is Oklahoma’s Attorney General and President Trump’s nominee for Environmental Protection Agency Administrator. In a letter sent to Pruitt’s office today, Whitehouse questions why Pruitt has brushed off requests for information by members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and suggested they ask other sources or submit open records requests instead.
“As a former Attorney General, I find Mr. Pruitt’s claims that he is not aware of pending open records requests at his office and is apparently powerless to provide that information to the Committee on his own accord, hard to believe, and suggestive of an effort to hide information from the Senate before his confirmation,” writes Whitehouse, who served as Rhode Island Attorney General from 1999 through 2002.
At least one open records request has been pending at Pruitt’s office since January 2015, and reporting indicates at least 52 requests remain unfulfilled. Whitehouse notes that Pruitt still needs to fully explain his relationship to numerous entities involved in EPA matters, which could pose serious conflicts of interest. The letter requests details of the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Open Records Act process that the Senators would be subject to.
Full text of the letter is below. A PDF copy is available here.
February 1, 2017
Sarah A. Greenwalt
General Counsel to the Attorney General
Oklahoma Office of the Attorney General
313 NE 21st Street
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
Dear Ms. Greenwalt,
I am a member of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which is considering Oklahoma Attorney General Pruitt’s nomination to serve as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. I recently asked Mr. Pruitt to provide a list of all pending Open Records Act or other similar information requests under Oklahoma state law, by whom, and when each was filed. Mr. Pruitt stated he is not familiar with the pending requests and indicated “such a requests [sic] should be directed to the Office of Attorney General’s general counsel, who can provide such a list.”
It has been reported that your office has at least 52 outstanding Open Records Act requests and I'm aware of six from the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). One CMD requests dating back to January 5, 2015 is for over 3000 emails and attachments between the Attorney General and his top staff, sent using official and/or personal email accounts, and Koch Industries, Devon Energy, Peabody Coal, and other entities active in EPA matters. Another is from November 2015 for records pertaining to the Republican Attorney Generals Association (RAGA), a group for which Mr. Pruitt has solicited funds, which paid for his seat on a chartered plane and other travel expenses, and hosted private events with Republican attorney generals and co-plaintiffs and amici in Mr. Pruitt’s lawsuits. Other requests are for emails between Mr. Pruitt and ALEC, CEI, State Policy Network, and AG’s United for Clean Power. Mr. Pruitt’s relationship with these organizations could present conflicts of interest should he be confirmed as Administrator of EPA.
As a former Attorney General, I find Mr. Pruitt’s claims that he is not aware of pending open records requests at his office and is apparently powerless to provide that information to the Committee on his own accord, hard to believe, and suggestive of an effort to hide information from the Senate before his confirmation. Nevertheless, as he suggested I am requesting from you the following:
- A list of all pending Open Records Act or other similar information requests under Oklahoma state law, by whom, and when each was filed.
- How long has it been the policy of your office to process Open Record Act requests in the order in which they are received?
- Has your office fulfilled any Open Record Act requests submitted since January 5, 2015? If so, when were they submitted, by whom, and when were they fulfulled?
- By when do you estimate being able to produce the responsive documents for each of CMD’s six outstanding Open Records Act requests that were submitted prior to November 8, 2016?
As Mr. Pruitt’s nomination is currently pending before the Senate, please provide this information by close of business on Thursday, February 2nd, or contact my staff by that date to explain why that production is not possible.
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