March 30, 2018
NOTE TO REPORTERS
Pruitt’s Rental Arrangement Appears to Violate Gift Ban; Public Citizen Calls on EPA Inspector General to Investigate
Apartment Co-Owner’s Husband Works at Firm That Lobbied EPA for Oklahoma Gas & Electric
Public Citizen is calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) inspector general to investigate EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s apartment rental arrangement in Washington, D.C. It appears to violate executive branch gift rules and an executive order addressing gifts, Public Citizen says.
According to media reports, Pruitt is renting a room in a Capitol Hill townhouse co-owned by health care lobbyist Vicki Hart, whose husband J. Steven Hart lobbies for industries that have business before the EPA. His firm, Williams and Jensen, lobbied the EPA on behalf of an electric utility, Oklahoma Gas & Electric, while Pruitt was renting the room, according to disclosure reports.
Among J. Steven Hart’s clients: the American Automotive Policy Council, which includes the automakers Fiat Chrysler, Ford and General Motors. Ford and General Motors have met with EPA staff to discuss fuel economy standards. All three are members of the Auto Alliance, which has been pressing for the EPA to reconsider the standards. Pruitt is expected to announce a rollback of the standards as soon as today. In addition, Fiat Chrysler is under fire for alleged cheating on emissions testing.
Pruitt pays only $50 for each night he sleeps at the apartment, even though the room has been set aside for his exclusive use.
In a letter sent Thursday night to the EPA’s inspector general, Public Citizen stated that, “While a market rate rental arrangement between Pruitt and the lobbyist ‘power couple’ would not pose a violation of conflict of interest or gift rules, neither the EPA nor the Harts would comment on whether the arrangement involved fair market rates. If the rental arrangement was anything other, it would at least constitute a violation of the federal statutes and executive branch rules prohibiting gifts to covered officials from prohibited sources … as well as the gift ban under Executive Order #13770.”
After Public Citizen sent the letter, more details emerged about Pruitt’s rental arrangement, including the $50 per night rate.
“This appears to be a gift from a lobbyist to the EPA administrator,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen. “Scott Pruitt seems to be renting at well below market value – from a family member of a lobbyist who has business before the EPA.”
Read Public Citizen’s letter to the inspector general.