Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump’s scandal-mired EPA chief and a man so committed to destroying his own agency that he’s willing to have dinner with accused child predators that also don’t believe in climate change, somehow managed to be even dumber and lazier about stacking the EPA with cronies and energy industry shills than one might have already suspected. In fact, Pruitt was so sloppy, he just asked oil companies to send over resumes and solicited staffing recommendations from his lobbyist landlord.
According to a BuzzFeed article posted Monday night, Pruitt made a “recruiting ‘plea’ to top executives at the American Petroleum Institute” to help him find regional directors about a month after he obtained the EPA job. Emails obtained by the Sierra Club and shared with BuzzFeed showed that at least one employee of gas and oil giant ConocoPhillips, as well as a personal friend of one of the company’s executives, responded to Pruitt’s request by polishing their resumes and applying:
“I understand that Administrator Pruitt met with the API executives last week and he made a plea for candidates to fill some of the regional director positions within the agency,” Kevin Avery, manager of federal government affairs at oil company ConocoPhillips, wrote in a March 27, 2017, email to Samantha Dravis, then a top EPA aide. “One of our employees has expressed interest. He is polishing up his resume. Where does he need to send it?”
Former Bush-era EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman told BuzzFeed that “It would be highly unusual to go to a specific industry to try to recruit” and that usually the EPA usually took recommendations from the White House and Congress. She was joined in her assessment by a former regional director:
Former EPA regional director Judith Enck was shocked to hear about Pruitt’s recruiting. “I think it’s troubling the head of the EPA is asking the fossil fuel industry for staff recommendations for chief positions,” Enck told BuzzFeed News.
According to the New York Times, the batch of emails obtained by the Sierra Club also shows that Pruitt probably entertained the idea of giving a job to a friend of J. Steven Hart, a DC lobbyist who represented notorious polluter Smithfield Foods and whose wife also happened to be renting Pruitt out an apartment at way below market rate. The Times wrote Hart repeatedly emailed back and forth with Pruitt’s chief of staff regarding potential hires, including both Hart’s personal friend and others desired by Smithfield:
The potential hiring of Mr. Hart’s family friend was discussed in emails between Mr. Pruitt’s chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, and Mr. Hart, who was chairman of the Washington lobbying firm Williams & Jensen and whose wife, Vicki Hart, rented the condo to Mr. Pruitt. Other subjects discussed during and after Mr. Pruitt rented Ms. Hart’s condo included refrigerant chemicals, which was raised on behalf of Coca-Cola, and the Paris Agreement — the global climate pact to address climate change — discussed on behalf of the global bank HSBC.
The emails also show that Mr. Hart suggested other potential hires to the E.P.A., including one person who he emphasized was a Republican and an African-American, on behalf of an executive of the philanthropic arm of the pork giant Smithfield Foods.
“We now have concrete evidence that Scott Pruitt offered to use taxpayer resources to do favors for the lobbyist who gave him a sweetheart deal on a D.C. condo,” Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune told the Times.
Neither the ConocoPhillips recommendations, Hart’s friend, or the black Republican desired by Smithfield were hired, per BuzzFeed and the Times, though every single one of these situations appears to make a mockery of federal ethics guidelines urging staff to avoid even the appearance of “violating the law or the ethical standards.”
But it’s hardly a surprise at this point Pruitt would be so dumb and reckless, even in situations where maintaining just a little more appearance of standards would have prevented the target on his back from growing ever bigger. There are now at least 14 separate federal probes “into Pruitt’s spending and ethics,” according to CNN, including allegations he improperly retaliated against staff who protested things like him using his unprecedented 24/7 security detail to run his personal errands. As Vanity Fair recently noted, Pruitt has fired or reassigned so many EPA employees that he appears to be running out of people to retaliate against.