Oklahoma Senators Stand Behind Scandal Plagued Scott Pruitt
As mounting reports and accusations of unethical spending continue to plague Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s Senators are continuing their full-throated support of the embattled former Attorney General.
Since the spring of 2017, dozens of reports have raised questions about Pruitt’s spending of millions in taxpayer dollars on round-the-clock security, a soundproof phone booth and pricey first-class travel. He has also had to defend large raises for two long-time aides after the White House denied the initial request.
READ ALSO: EPA's Embattled Scott Pruitt Claims Ignorance About Big Raises For His Top Aides
Most recently, Pruitt’s decision to rent a room from the wife of a powerful lobbyist at well below market price has come under scrutiny. According to reports, Pruitt rented the room at $50 per night. The lobbyist, Steven J. Hart, frequently represents energy and utility companies in Washington, including Oklahoma Gas and Electric (OG&E). In a recent interview on Fox News, Pruitt denied Hart’s clients had any involvement with the EPA.
The Hart’s were also donors and fundraisers for Pruitt while he was a politician in Oklahoma. According to the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, they were involved in his election for Attorney General. They spent more than $3,300 in donations and a fundraiser reception.
READ ALSO: Report: White House Chief Urges President Trump To Fire Pruitt
In emails, neither the offices of Senators James Lankford nor Jim Inhofe addressed the scrutiny of their chosen EPA administrator.
“Since being sworn in, [Pruitt] has been instrumental in carrying out President Trump’s deregulatory agenda,” Inhofe said.
Inhofe was one of Pruitt’s more vocal supporters prior to his confirmation.
Lankford’s office initially declined to comment on the reports about Pruitt, but Lankford was recently quoted in The Oklahoman saying he didn’t think Pruitt should resign, adding the decision to rent the room “would seem normal for most Oklahomans.”
During Pruitt’s confirmation process, both senators gave glowing endorsements of the then Oklahoma AG.
“Pruitt...has fought against federal overreach,” Inhofe wrote. “[Pruitt] has worked to keep the role of the federal government in check.”
Lankford, who authors an annual report on wasteful government spending, called Pruitt a “dedicated public servant” during his introduction, saying Pruitt “respects the importance of our federalist foundation and the pocketbooks of hardworking families.”
In the days since the latest scandal erupted, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, as well as President Donald Trump’s Chief of Staff, Gen. John Kelly, have called for Pruitt to step down. Trump, however, said last week Pruitt was “doing a great job,” and signaled Pruitt would remain in his current role.