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EPA's Scott Pruitt haunted by corruption allegations, old and new

Scott Pruitt's current scandals echo his previous ones -- up to and including a questionable living arrangement made possible by assistance from lobbyists.
In this March 10, 2016 photo, Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma Attorney General, gestures as he speaks during an interview in Oklahoma City, Okla. (Photo by Sue Ogrocki/AP)
In this March 10, 2016 photo, Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma Attorney General, gestures as he speaks during an interview in Oklahoma City, Okla.

The list of scandals surrounding EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is unnervingly long. The Oklahoma Republican, tasked by Donald Trump to lead the environmental agency Pruitt has fought to undermine for years, is facing allegations of brazen corruption, misusing public funds, and abusing the powers of his office.

Even in a cabinet filled with ugly controversies and ethical messes, Pruitt stands out as arguably the most scandal plagued of the bunch.

What's less appreciated is Pruitt's lengthy pattern of dubious behavior. The New York Times  reported over the weekend, for example, on Pruitt's record as a state senator 15 years ago, and how familiar his conduct seems. Of particular interest, note what happened after he attended a gathering "at the Oklahoma City home of an influential telecommunications lobbyist who was nearing retirement and about to move away."

The lobbyist said that after the 2003 gathering, Mr. Pruitt -- who had a modest legal practice and a state salary of $38,400 -- reached out to her. He wanted to buy her showplace home as a second residence for when he was in the state capital. [...]Soon Mr. Pruitt was staying there, and so was at least one other lawmaker, according to interviews. Mr. Pruitt even bought Ms. Lindsey’s dining room set, art and antique rugs, she said.A review of real estate and other public records shows that Mr. Pruitt was not the sole owner: The property was held by a shell company registered to a business partner and law school friend, Kenneth Wagner.

After Wagner created the shell company that helped put Pruitt in a showcase home, the mortgage was arranged by Albert Kelly, another Pruitt ally, who was later "barred from working in the finance industry because of a banking violation."

Wagner is now a top official at Pruitt's EPA -- and so is Kelly.

Wait, it gets worse. From the Times' article:

According to real estate records, the 2003 purchase of the house for $375,000 came at a steep discount of about $100,000 from what Ms. Lindsey had paid a year earlier -- a shortfall picked up by her employer, the telecom giant SBC Oklahoma.SBC, previously known as Southwestern Bell and later as AT&T, had been lobbying lawmakers in the early 2000s on a range of matters, including a deregulation bill that would allow it to raise rates and a separate regulatory effort to reopen a bribery case from a decade earlier. Mr. Pruitt sided with the company on both matters, state records show.

Once he was attorney general, Pruitt also sided with the telecom giant when it was accused of bribing state officials.

As for the Oklahoma City home, the LLC sold the property in 2005 at a handsome profit, "and none of Mr. Pruitt’s financial disclosure filings in Oklahoma mentioned the company or the proceeds -- a potential violation of the state’s ethics rules."

His current scandals seem to be echoes of his previous ones -- up to and including a questionable living arrangement made possible by assistance from corporate lobbyists.

And speaking of Pruitt's current scandals, we've also learned in recent days:

* The Times also reported that Pruitt met personally last year "with J. Steven Hart, the lobbyist whose wife had rented him a $50-a-night Capitol Hill condo, a disclosure that contradicts earlier statements that E.P.A. lobbying by Mr. Hart had not occurred."

* We recently learned that Pruitt has four different email addresses at the EPA, which in turn has led to disclosure questions when it comes to public-records requests. (This, too, echoes a Pruitt controversy from his time in Oklahoma.)

* Politico  reported last week that a group of Colorado homebuilders "paid for a luxury hotel stay last fall for EPA chief Scott Pruitt, eight months after the Trump administration began work on a major priority for their industry by unwinding an Obama-era wetlands regulation."

* ABC News reported that newly released calendars for Pruitt’s controversial Morocco trip "were largely blacked out before being shared with ABC News." The report added, "Pruitt did not publicly announce he was going ahead of time, did not bring reporters along, and when he finally released copies of his itinerary in response to Freedom of Information requests from ABC News and other news organizations, the bulk of the schedule was blacked out."

* And Reuters reported that Pruitt "spent about $45,000 in government money to fly five people to Australia to prepare for a planned trip that was later canceled."

Facing an avalanche of controversies like these, common sense suggests Pruitt should've been fired quite a while ago. That he hasn't says as much about the president as it does about the EPA chief.