News & Politics

This highly corrupt ex-Trump official accepted an ethically dubious $50,000 dollars 'believed to be in cash' for his legal fees: report

Even while trying to defend himself, Scott Pruitt can't stop doing shady things.

Photo Credit: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

On Thursday, E&E News reported that disgraced former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt accepted a $50,000 contribution to his legal defense fund from a billionaire donor, blowing off EPA ethics officials who would have wanted input on such a gift:

Diane Hendricks of Beloit, Wis., gave $50,000 to Pruitt's fund, according to the last financial disclosure report filed by the ex-agency head, which EPA released today.

Hendricks is a billionaire businesswoman and film producer. She is also a well-known Republican donor who served as an economic adviser to President Trump's 2016 campaign.

Pruitt set up the fund as he battled with ethics allegations that eventually led to his resignation from EPA. The report, also known as his termination report, covers Pruitt's finances for the 2018 calendar year up to his departure from the agency in early July.

Included on the report is a note from Justina Fugh, a senior EPA ethics official, saying Pruitt did not seek ethics advice from EPA before accepting the contribution from Hendricks. In addition, "EPA ethics officials did not know of this contribution — believed to be in cash — until they received the termination report."

While this was one of the shadiest ways possible to accept a gift, it is not surprising that Pruitt desperately wants funding for his legal defense by any means necessary.

The former attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt was President Donald Trump's first pick to lead the EPA, a move decried from the start because he had no qualifications for the role other than having sued the agency 13 times. After taking office, Pruitt rapidly became embroiled in an endless parade of ethics scandals. He blew taxpayer money on first-class airfare, security detail for trips to Disneyland and the Rose Bowl, and a soundproof phone booth in his office. He exploited a loophole in the Safe Drinking Water Act to give his cronies lavish pay raises, and retaliated against employees who questioned his spending. He accepted a cut-rate rental on a D.C. condominium from a lobbyist whose corporate clients had business before the EPA, and then overstayed that lease so long the lobbyist had to change the locks. He tried to use his office to get a Chick-Fil-A franchise for his wife. And he treated EPA staffers like his personal servants, ordering them to help him find an old mattress from the Trump Hotel and his favorite moisturizer from the Ritz-Carlton.

When he finally resigned in July, Pruitt was facing over a dozen investigations and audits from the EPA Office of the Inspector General, the Government Accountability Office, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, and the House Oversight Committee.

It is only fitting that in the attempt to raise the money to defend himself from all of his scandals, Pruitt would choose one of the most ethically questionable ways possible to receive that money.

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Matthew Chapman is a video game designer, science fiction author, and political reporter from Austin, TX. Follow him on Twitter @fawfulfan.