January 18, 2017

Whitehouse: What is Scott Pruitt Hiding?

EPA nominee provides no answers to Whitehouse’s questions about his industry ties

Washington, DC – Today, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) joined the other members of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee at the confirmation hearing for E. Scott Pruitt to be Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Whitehouse raised a series of questions about Pruitt’s long-standing ties to industries he would regulate if confirmed and his lack of responsiveness to inquiries about those ties.  Those ties, and Pruitt’s actions on behalf of industries he has raised money from, have been documented by the New York Times and others.

“Scott Pruitt could have come clean about who he has raised money from for political purposes.  But he didn’t and that’s too bad.  We expect, and federal law requires, our public servants to discharge their duties impartially.  If he has solicited political funds from companies that he may be charged with regulating, the Senate should know that before it votes on his confirmation.  His evasiveness today left me wondering: What is Scott Pruitt hiding,” said Whitehouse. 

During the hearing, Pruitt refused to provide additional details about a range of troubling activities:

  • Pruitt refused to provide details about any solicitations he made from regulated industries for the Republican Attorney Generals Association;
  • He refused to provide details about any solicitations he made from regulated industries for the Rule of Law Defense Fund, a 501(c)(4) dark money organization that does not disclose its donors;
  • He refused to discuss details about private meetings with fossil fuel interests hosted at a 2015 meeting of the Republican Attorney Generals Association;
  • He refused to explain why it has taken his office over two years to produce any records in response to an Open Records Act request for emails between his office and a number of fossil fuel companies, including Devon Energy, Murray Energy, and Koch Industries, even though his office has acknowledged it has over 3,000 responsive records. 

The Office of Government Ethics and the EPA advised the Committee this week that their review for conflicts of interest does not include political solicitations by the nominee exposing how outdated the federal ethics review process is post-Citizens United. 

“Mr. Pruitt could have solicited $1 million dollars from a fossil fuel company last week for one of his political organizations, and it would not show up on his financial disclosures.  Most people would consider this a real conflict of interest for an EPA Administrator.  We will keep demanding answers to these important questions as the nomination process moves forward,” said Whitehouse. 


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