IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Scandal-tarnished Pruitt hopes to go from Trump’s EPA to Senate

During his tenure leading the EPA, Scott Pruitt was at the center of 14 federal investigations. Now he's parlaying that record into a GOP Senate campaign.


It was a few weeks ago when The Washington Post first reported that Scott Pruitt, who ran the Environmental Protection Agency under Donald Trump for a while, was eyeing a U.S. Senate campaign in his home state of Oklahoma. In fact, the Republican had apparently called up some oil industry billionaires to discuss a prospective candidacy.

This was not idle chatter. The Tulsa World reported:

Former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is running for U.S. Senate.... Pruitt represented Tulsa and Wagoner counties in the Oklahoma Senate from 1998 until 2006. He served two terms in the Attorney General’s Office after being elected first in 2010.

Incumbent GOP Sen. Jim Inhofe is stepping down this year — just two years into latest six-year term — prompting a special election in the Sooner State. The field of Republican candidates already includes some notable contenders whom Pruitt will face in a primary.

But what makes Pruitt’s candidacy so remarkable is his apparent belief that his many scandals won’t get in the way of his statewide campaign.

Before Pruitt became a scandal-plagued EPA administrator, he was a scandal-plagued Republican official in Oklahoma. In fact, as regular readers may recall, before Pruitt joined Trump’s cabinet, he faced questions about hiding official emails that documented his cooperation with the oil and gas industries.

He also used multiple email accounts, including conducting official business on a private account, despite telling Congress the opposite.

He nevertheless took the reins at the EPA in 2017, and to the delight of the right and allied polluters, Pruitt got to work dismantling environmental protections. But in the process, he abused his office to such a ridiculous extent that the Oklahoman found himself at the center of multiple investigations.

What constitutes “multiple”? I’m glad you asked. Here’s a list I put together after Pruitt had only been in office for 15 months.

  1. The EPA’s inspector general investigated Pruitt’s controversial travel habits.
  2. The House Oversight Committee examined the EPA chief’s use of public funds for first-class travel.
  3. The EPA’s inspector general investigated Pruitt’s behind-the-scenes talks with the National Mining Association.
  4. Pruitt’s exorbitant spending on an around-the-clock security detail was the subject of three inspector general investigations.
  5. The House Oversight Committee examined the EPA chief’s security expenditures.
  6. The Government Accountability Office investigated Pruitt for exceeding federal spending limits when he bought a $43,000 phone booth for his office.
  7. The White House Office of Management and Budget also investigated the phone booth.
  8. The EPA’s inspector general investigated Pruitt’s use of funds set aside for the Safe Drinking Water Act and diverting the money to give generous raises to two of his top aides.
  9. The EPA’s inspector general investigated Pruitt’s four-day trip to Morocco in 2017.
  10. The Government Accountability Office investigated Pruitt’s ouster of scientists from the EPA’s science advisory committee.
  11. The Government Accountability Office investigated whether Pruitt broke lobbying laws with comments he made to the National Cattleman’s Beef Association.
  12. The House Oversight Committee investigated Pruitt’s living arrangement at a lobbyist’s condo.
  13. The EPA’s inspector general took a closer look at Pruitt’s time at that condo.
  14. The EPA’s inspector general investigated Pruitt’s use of multiple email accounts.

(Dana Milbank said the actual total is 15, but you get the idea.)

Facing allegations of corruption, abuses of power, and misuse of public resources, Pruitt hired a criminal defense attorney to help advise him in May 2018. Two months later he resigned under a cloud of scandal.

He then did exactly what you probably guessed he did: Pruitt became an energy lobbyist.

The Republican believes the responsible thing to do is parlay this extraordinary recent history into a U.S. Senate campaign — which he might very well win, because in contemporary politics, ethics scandals don’t necessarily interfere with Republicans’ electoral ambitions.

Indeed, the only member of Team Trump who’s as scandal-tarnished as Pruitt — aside from the former president himself, of course — is former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. And what’s he up to? Wouldn’t you know it, the Montana Republican also recently launched a congressional campaign.