Environmental Protection Agency Administrator and Former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt will not be appearing at a Republican gala next week, he said Thursday morning on conservative radio. His decision to withdraw comes amid an accusation his appearance would violate federal law.
He was scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the State Republican Gala in Moore on May 5, according to an invitation sent out by the party. The event is meant to be a fundraiser for the OKGOP.
Pruitt’s withdrawal follows an accusation and formal complaint from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) who alleged earlier in the week, Pruitt’s attendance violated the Hatch Act. The Act puts limits certain kinds of political activity in which executive branch employees can engage, including using their position in federal office in exchange for political contributions, according to the Office of Special Counsel. In his complaint, Whitehouse calls the gala a “pay-for-play” event and urges the OSC to investigate.
“This is the least he can do. But the Office of Special Counsel still must do a thorough investigation…,” Whitehouse said in a statement on his website Thursday commenting on Pruitt’s withdrawal.
“Scott Pruitt has a long record of dark money fundraising and cozy relationships with big, fossil-fuel political donors. The American people need to know whether he is using his position at EPA to promote the political actors who support him.”
Pruitt said the event was approved by the EPA’s ethics counsel and it was instead, an error on the part of the OKGOP that violated the law.
“What happened was the folks that invited me sent out an invitation post that approval that didn’t comply with federal law and federal ethics law. So we're not going to be able to attend,” Pruitt told FoxNews Radio host Brian Kilmeade Thursday morning.
OKGOP Chair Pam Pollard, however, split with Pruitt in an interview Thursday afternoon. Pollard said there were no laws violated and was confident an investigation would not be launched.
“We can't control who files, verbally accuses somebody of something, throws some words out somewhere,” Pollard said in an open room inside the OKGOP headquarters. “We can't stop who might file paperwork on something. We believe we know the rules. We know the laws and I believe in the rule of law.”
Pollard wouldn’t say who is going to replace Pruitt at the Gala, but said there are several people on a short list.
Pruitt’s tenure at the EPA in the first 100 days of President Donald Trump’s administration has been marked by troubling accusations. During his confirmation hearing, it was discovered Pruitt made untrue statements in front of Senators several times during testimony under oath.
The discovery prompted Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) to allege Pruitt committed perjury prior to being confirmed. Pruitt is also being investigated by the Oklahoma Bar Association for his statements. The investigation could lead to disbarment.
He also came under fire from environmental groups after thousands of emails were released from his time as Oklahoma Attorney General. The groups raised concerns after the emails revealed close relationships between Pruitt and Oklahoma energy companies, including exchanges in which Pruitt appeared to be taking direction from industry leaders.
Pruitt was also criticized by the Oklahoma County judge who ordered the release. The emails were requested more than two years ago, a delay the judge called an “abject failure” to follow state open records laws.
Pruitt’s office said the official statement on his decision not to attend were made in his remarks on conservative radio. A request for an interview went unanswered.