June 21, 2018
Pruitt Must Answer Ethics Questions About His Legal Defense Fund
Public Citizen and Other Groups Renew Call for Information
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt is overdue to prove that his legal defense fund is not violating the conflict of interest code and federal ethics codes, dozens of groups and experts said today in an open letter to Pruitt.
On May 21, four U.S. senators sent Pruitt a formal request for information about the name, structure, fundraising activities and disclosure requirements for his legal defense fund and asked that the information be provided within 10 business days. Their inquiry included a request for the names, dates and contribution levels of the fund’s donors.
That deadline has passed but U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Thomas Carper (D-Del.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) still have not been answered, the letter states.
Days before senators sent their request, Pruitt testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies that his legal defense fund would abide by ethics rules and regulations, including disclosure requirements.
However, as the groups noted, the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) has offered little guidance for the implementation of operations of legal defense funds for executive branch personnel – leaving much discretion to the funds’ executors. Public Citizen in September 2017 called on the OGE to develop rules for establishing and financing legal funds. To avoid conflicts of interest, the rules should cover contribution limits, source prohibitions and disclosure requirements.
“Given the large number of ethics scandals now under investigation at the EPA, further scandals should be avoided by you and your agency,” the letter states.
The letter to Pruitt was sent by the following groups:
American Bridge 21st Century
Center for Accountability
Center for Media and Democracy
Denver Catholic Network
End Citizens United
Endangered Species Coalition
Environmental Integrity Project
Environmental Working Group
Friends of the Earth
Green for All
Hip Hop Caucus
League of Conservation Voters
National LGBTQ Task Force
Natural Resources Defense Council
People For the American Way
Revolving Door Project
Prof. James Thurber of American University