President Trump’s ethically challenged Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt personally contacted a private business to seek a business opportunity for his wife and used an agency staffer to handle the outreach, both improper and possibly illegal under government ethics rules.
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Three months after Pruitt took over as EPA head in 2017 he had his executive scheduler sent an email to Dan Cathy, Chairman, and President of Chick-fil-A, a fast food restaurant chain well known for its conservative political policies, to request a meeting for Pruitt to discuss “a potential business opportunity.”
After a call was arranged and then canceled, Pruitt finally spoke one on one with a person in the Chick-fil-A legal department where he revealed that he was looking for a job for his wife Marlyn.
“The subject of that phone call was an expression of interest in his wife becoming a Chick-fil-A franchisee,” a company rep told The Washington Post.
A franchisee application was sent to Marlyn Pruitt, who has been married to Scott Pruitt for 28 years, but she never completed it, according to the company rep.
“The revelation that Pruitt used his official position and EPA staff to try and line up work for his wife appears to open a new chapter in the ongoing saga of his questionable spending and management decisions,” reports the Washington Post, “which so far have spawned a dozen federal probes.”
These are separate from his controversial tenure at the EPA, where he has rolled back generations of rules and regulations designed to protect the environment from rapacious business interests.
Pruitt’s latest ethical blackeye was uncovered after the Sierra Club use got emails and documents using a Freedom of Information request.
The trove of emails also revealed that Pruitt approached Matthew Swift, the chief executive of Concordia, a New York nonprofit, to express his wife’s interests in event planning, especially events that take place in Washington, D.C.
Pruitt asked Swift to call Marlyn Pruitt, which he did.
“Mrs. Pruitt was interested in meeting people in the nonprofit sector,” Swift said, “and I offered to introduce her to some of Concordia’s attendees based in Washington and for her to become involved with Concordia’s events.”
Concordia had asked Pruitt to be a speaker at its 2017 conference last September in New York City, where he eventually spoke.
Concordia hired Marlyn Pruitt to work on the event for three days for $2,000.
When he came to the event, Pruitt was accompanied by at least three EPA employees.
Travel records show Pruitt traveled by first class air to the event at a cost of $1,201.80, and his overnight stay cost $669.
Swift denied that Pruitt would only speak if his wife was given a role.
It appears Pruitt and his wife, who have two children, were feeling a financial crush after the move to Washington from Oklahoma, where they still have a home with a mortgage of $850,000, that requires monthly payments of at least $5,000 and has annual taxes of over $17,000.
They now also have a second home, an apartment, in a Washington project near Capitol Hill where rents for a one bedroom begin at $3,000 a month.
As head of the EPA, Pruitt is paid $186,600 per year.
On is federal disclosure forms for last year, Pruitt said his salary from his government jobs first in Oklahoma, where he was Attorney General, and now in Washington, are his only income.
He also listed his wife’s income at “none.”
Current and former EPA aides told The Washington Post “Pruitt was eager for his wife to start receiving a salary.”
“Two said Pruitt was frustrated in part by the high cost of maintaining homes in both Washington and Oklahoma,” added The Post.
If Pruitt used his position or staff for private gain, he would have violated federal laws.
Don Fox, who headed the Office of Government Ethics under President Obama, said contacting a company about a job for his wife “raises the specter of misuse of public office.”
The use of a government aide to make the initial request also appears; to violate ethics rules, according to Fox: “It’s a misuse of the aide’s time to ask the aide to do something that is really for personal financial benefit.”
Pruitt has come under fire for everything from his excessive travel expenses to his demand for expensive security and the use of a car with a police siren to get him around traffic in Washington, but to date, President Trump has stood by him, apparently because at the EPA he is doing what Trump wants – gutting every regulation that he possibly can.
How he’s lasted this long with his constant barrage of embarrassing scandals is beyond any of us.