EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt did in fact meet with one half of the lobbyist power couple who leased him Washington, D.C. townhouse for $50 per night last year.
The lobbyist, Steven Hart, announced Friday that he would retire as chairman of Williams & Jensen, the well-known lobbying firm, as a result of the townhouse scandal.
Later on Friday, the Hill first reported, the firm filed a disclosure that Hart was a lobbyist for Smithfield Foods, the pork processing giant, earlier this year. The Daily Beast had previously reported on Hart’s firm’s clients with business before the EPA. The firm’s disclosure contradicts Hart and Pruitt’s prior claims that Hart hadn’t lobbied the EPA during Pruitt’s time as administrator.
Then, the New York Times and Politico reported that Hart had personally met with Pruitt and a former executive at Smithfield Foods in 2017. The former executive now serves on the board of Smithfield’s philanthropic organization.
An EPA official acknowledged to Politico that Pruitt had personally met with Hart and the former Smithfield executive, but the official “argued that the meeting didn’t meet the definition of lobbying,” the publication said. The Times reported that Smithfield Foods and Hart disputed that the meeting constituted lobbying, as well.
“I assisted a friend who serves on the Chesapeake Bay Commission, and this is inaccurately being tied to Smithfield Foods,” Hart said in a statement quoted by multiple outlets. “I was not paid for this assistance and any suggestion that I lobbied for Smithfield Foods is inaccurate.”