Scott Pruitt May Have Violated Oklahoma Ethics Rules as a State Senator

The current EPA administrator used a shell company to buy a house—at a deep discount.

Scott PruittCarolyn Kaster/AP

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt used a shell company in 2003 to buy a home in Oklahoma from a retiring lobbyist, according to an investigation by the New York Times.

At the time, Pruitt was a state senator in Oklahoma. The shell company was registered to his business associate and law school friend Kenneth Wagner, now a senior adviser at the EPA. The mortgage for the home was issued by a local bank that was helmed by another current EPA adviser, Albert Kelly, who has since been banned from working in finance due to a banking violation.

The shell company acquired the home in 2003 for $375,000, about $100,000 less than the lobbyist had paid a year earlier for it, and sold it two years later for about $470,000. Pruitt did not disclose the profit or the shell company in his financial filings at the time, which, according to the Times, is a possible breach of state ethics rules.

An EPA spokeswoman told the Times that Pruitt’s business activities with Wagner and Kelly “were ethical” and that his involvement with the shell company “was a simple real estate investment.”

The report comes as Pruitt faces calls to resign over his extravagant spending habits at the EPA, which has included doling out more than $200,000 for first-class trips with his security detail. This month, the Government Accountability Office said the administrator violated federal law by purchasing a $43,238 soundproof privacy booth to make phone calls in his office.

Pruitt is also under fire for renting a Capitol Hill condominium from the wife of lobbyist J. Steven Hart. On Friday, the Hill reported that at the beginning of 2018, Hart had “reached out to the EPA on behalf of a client—despite claiming he hadn’t lobbied the agency in the last two years.” On Saturday, the Times reported that Hart also met with Pruitt last year.

For more on Pruitt’s spending and his past in Oklahoma, check out Rebecca Leber’s recent profile of the embattled EPA administrator. 

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

payment methods

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate