Friday, June 1, 2018

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility needs help to block Pruitt's war on EPA

I received the following email from Jeff Ruch, Executive Director of PEER  (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility) that I want to share.  PEER needs more help to block Pruitt’s insurgency against our nation’s EPA.  Can you offer them some support?

A new scheme by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to raise private donations for a personal legal defense fund violates criminal conflict of interest laws and federal ethics rules, according to a new PEER complaint

Earlier this month, Pruitt admitted under questioning at a Senate subcommittee that he has created a “legal defense fund” even though he is not yet personally facing any civil suits or criminal charges.

Responding to congressional and other official inquiries is part of Scott Pruitt’s day job and he is not supposed to accept gifts for doing that job – a violation of the criminal conflict of interest prohibition against a government official having two paymasters. 

That offense is punishable by – Imprisonment up to one year for a knowing violation;
  • Imprisonment up to five years for a willful violation; and/or
  • Civil penalties of up to $50,000 for each violation.

By launching a private legal defense fund, Pruitt may have created a need for it. We are asking the Justice Department to open a criminal review on Pruitt’s latest ethical overreach.

Compounding this violation is the typically sleazy way Pruitt has gone about it. He has declined to say how the fund operates, how gifts will be screened, to whom and for what the money goes.

That secrecy breaks federal ethics rules against creating the appearance of impropriety. In fact, Pruitt seems to be deliberately attempting to create the appearance of impropriety.

Pruitt promised not to accept donations from lobbyists or entities with business before EPA.  That, however, is not the ethical minimum (his apparent aim).  Ethics rules ban gifts from anyone who “has interests which may be substantially affected by the performance or nonperformance of his official duty.” That is a far wider zone of prohibition than Pruitt pledges to honor.

Given the scope of the EPA Administrator’s duties and that Pruitt, by his own count, has initiated some 66 “deregulatory actions” involving virtually every major environmental law, donations from a vast swath of American corporations and all their employees, shareholders, contractors, and other connected individuals should also be disallowed.  In short, anyone inclined to give Pruitt money is probably ineligible to.

Finally, if Pruitt is allowed to raise corporate money to finance his “war room”-style push-back against the media and perceived critics we can expect every other Trump appointee facing controversy to follow suit, thus making our Capitol a far more ethically swampy place than it has ever been. 

Help us close this sinkhole before it spreads, 
please donate here. 

Jeff Ruch
Executive Director


MAY 16, 2018
Democrats Sharpen Focus as Scott Pruitt Testifies Again on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON — Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, told a Senate panel on Wednesday that one of his employees had worked without pay on her personal time to find him a place to live, a service that Democrats said amounted to a violation of federal law.
He also confirmed that he had established a legal defense fund to defray the costs of defending himself against 12 federal investigations into his spending and management decisions. …

While President Trump has said he continues to support his embattled E.P.A. chief, senior members of the White House staff have opened a renewed push to persuade their boss to fire Mr. Pruitt. …

May 17, 2018
Who's donating to Pruitt's defense? Time will tell

Kevin Bogardus, E&E News reporter Greenwire: Thursday,

You may wait a long time to see who is contributing to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's legal defense fund.

Like other federal officials, the EPA chief is required to report gifts, like travel and tickets to events, he has received on his public financial disclosure report. That also includes contributions to the legal defense fund established for his benefit, according to guidance on the Office of Government Ethics' website.

But those reports are filed just once a year. If Pruitt's legal defense fund was created this year, he will report contributions as gifts on his financial disclosure report covering the 2018 calendar year. That report isn't required to be filed until May 2019 at the earliest.

"We're not going to find out until a year after the fact," Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist with Public Citizen, told E&E News. "That is ridiculous lag time. … 

… At a Senate hearing yesterday, Pruitt confirmed that he has created a legal defense fund as he grapples with multiple investigations into his pricey travel, ramped-up security and rent of a Capitol Hill condo linked to a lobbyist whose firm's clients have business before EPA. He said that he wouldn't accept donations from lobbyists or corporations that have interests related to the agency and that he would disclose the fund's donors (E&E News PM, May 16). …

'Public interest at risk’ …

Pruitt taps outside attorney for help amid investigations

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt has tapped a white-collar defense lawyer to advise him as he grapples with a dozen federal investigations into his activity, according to two people familiar with the situation.

Paul Rauser, co-founder of the firm Aegis Law Group, has been assisting Pruitt for several weeks as the Environmental Protection Agency chief faces fierce scrutiny …

One recent story in particular got the president’s attention: a report that conservative radio and television host Hugh Hewitt brokered a meeting with Pruitt to push for the cleanup of a polluted site in California. The story reignited Trump’s lingering frustrations with Hewitt, who he believes was unfairly critical of him during the presidential campaign, …

… Another lawyer working with Pruitt, Foley and Lardner partner Cleta Mitchell, helped set up the fund, according to a person familiar with the issue. The Washington Post first reported Mitchell’s involvement in the fund, …”

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