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Scott Pruitt Sexted Big Oil. There Was So Much Lube.
This man knows how to dance with the ones who brung him!
Is Scott Pruitt in ethics trouble again? Is it a day ending in drinking and quiet sobbing? Saturday, the New York Times published details of a letter sent by the EPA's chief ethics officer in which the ethics guy, Kevin Minoli, said he'd recommended Pruitt be officially investigated for violations of government ethics rules. This would be the same EPA ethics guy who in the past has defended Pruitt and said his behavior is as clean as the driven snow downwind of a coal power plant.
The letter, sent to Office of Government Ethics (OGE) acting director and general counsel David Apol, updates Apol on the state of ethics stuff at the EPA, noting that Minoli had referred several of Pruitt's fun scandals to the EPA's Inspector General for further investigation. While the letter doesn't specify which particular behaviors Minoli asked the IG to investigate, the Times found a "federal official with firsthand knowledge" who said the topics included Pruitt's use of official aides to help him with personal matters, fees paid to his wife from a nonprofit that also happened to invite Pruitt to speak for it, and of course Pruitt's sweet $50-a-night condo deal in the home of J. Steven Hart, that lobbyist who also happened to have business before the EPA:
In March, Mr. Minoli defended Mr. Pruitt's lease for the condo, saying that Mr. Pruitt paid what appeared to be fair market value. He subsequently learned that Mr. Hart, who at the time was chairman of the lobbying firm Williams & Jensen, had repeatedly intervened with the E.P.A., and with Mr. Pruitt directly, on behalf of the lobbying clients that included Smithfield Foods and Coca-Cola.
We also learn that the EPA's own ethics office was pretty much hollowed out at the start of the Trump administration, if you can believe such a thing. It had been whittled down to almost nothing by a hiring freeze -- because why would you waste money on ethics?
At one point last summer, after retirements and other temporary departures, the office had only one full-time employee.
Things are much better now, and Minoli was happy to say that EPA's ethics office has been staffed by some very professional people. Possibly on loan from the fossil fuels industry, though we're just guessing there.
Also, too, NYT reporter Erip Lipton posted to Twitter yesterday a delightful trove of documents obtained from a Sierra Club FOIA lawsuit against EPA, showing some of the mash notes Pruitt sent to oil and gas company execs after he met with them early in his term. While the letters don't include any juicy admissions of evil, it's noteworthy that virtually all of Pruitt's communication was with people in industry, not with any groups concerned with "protecting" the "environment":
STICK WITH US FOR THIS THREAD: We know Scott Pruitt doesn't like to email (avoids creating a "paper trail") Turns o… https://t.co/o4NZOtYnop
— Eric Lipton (@Eric Lipton) 1530462074.0
Mostly it's very friendly notes thanking the
pollutersgood corporate citizens for letting Pruitt know about their concerns and how the EPA can roll over and let them pet its belly. One especially touching exchange with the head of the American Petroleum Institute, the oil bidniss lobbying group, has API president Jack Gerard gushing that in all his years as a top oilman, he's never seen members of his group "spontaneously applaud" a guest speaker (click the tweety to see):
Pruitt and Jack Gerard, head American Petroleum Institute (API)-- the largest U.S. trade association for the oil an… https: //t.co/T3eNzNdilp
— Eric Lipton (@Eric Lipton) 1530462076.0
Spontaneous combustion of oil rigs, sure, but applause for an EPA chief? Such a nice treat. Pruitt also sent a love note to Harold Hamm, a top Pruitt crony from Oklahoma (and -- surprise! -- an oil billionaire who stands to make bank once Obama's climate agenda is undone). Pruitt hand-wrote, "Appreciate you!" on that one, because he CARES:
HAROLD HAMM--the Oklahoma oil billionaire who was the chairman of Pruitt's re-election campaign as Ok Attorney Gene… https: //t.co/zwHhDhjULS
— Eric Lipton (@Eric Lipton) 1530462077.0
There are a lot more such notes, all of them dating from 2017, after which, Lipton points out, Pruitt appears to have stopped leaving any troublesome written records of his footsie-playing with big oil behind. Wouldn't want to leave behind any smoking guns, or, more likely, refinery fires.
Records of some of Pruitt's incoming mail was also released in response to the FOIA, including books from climate change deniers who wanted to urge Pruitt to stay strong against mere science. One railed against the "Church of the Holy C02," explaining that climate science is purely a matter of faith, and another, sent by the author, warned that the "corrupt, self-serving big media" was colluding with fake scientists to turn US America into COMMUNIST CHINA:
Also, it is interesting that these hand-written notes seem largely from early 2017. Perhaps Pruitt stopped writing… https: //t.co/OsL3aqQPUC
— Eric Lipton (@Eric Lipton) 1530462088.0
Our favorite is just some good old-fashioned trolling. Some smartass sent Pruitt a copy of Global Warming for Dummies. A very used copy at that:
And then there was this: "GLOBAL WARMING FOR DUMMIES." A used copy, delivered free of charge to the E.P.A. "CONSID… https://t.co/FK44zHxBl0
— Eric Lipton (@Eric Lipton) 1530462087.0
As Lipton notes, Pruitt doesn't appear to have sent a thank-you for that one, which isn't very gracious of him at all. But we should note there's always more documentation to come -- maybe the sender was the intended recipient of that used Trump hotel jizz mattress?