Ethics Body Won’t Certify Final Pruitt Disclosure Report Over Condo Deal

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Environment Subcommittee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill April 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. The focus of nearly a dozen federal inquiries into his travel expenses, security practices and other issues, Pruitt testified about his agency's FY2019 budget proposal.
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 26: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Environment Subcommittee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capit... WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 26: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Environment Subcommittee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill April 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. The focus of nearly a dozen federal inquiries into his travel expenses, security practices and other issues, Pruitt testified about his agency's FY2019 budget proposal. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) MORE LESS
|
March 26, 2019 10:51 a.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Office of Government Ethics is refusing to certify one of the final financial disclosure reports of ex-Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, citing the cut-rate $50-a-night deal Pruitt had for a luxury Washington condo.

The ethics body said in a finding released Tuesday that federal authorities never resolved whether Pruitt’s condo deal with the wife of a lobbyist was a proper business arrangement or an improper gift linked to a lobbyist who did business with the EPA.

Pruitt, a former Oklahoma attorney general, resigned last July amid unrelenting scandals over his lavish spending at the EPA and allegations that he repeatedly sought to use his position to obtain favors for himself and his family.

Pruitt’s critics said those favors included his arrangement to rent a Capitol Hill condo for a below-market rate of $50 a night, payable only on the nights he stayed there. Pruitt rented the luxury condo from a company co-owned by the wife of J. Steven Hart, then-chairman of the powerhouse Washington lobbying firm Williams & Jensen. Hart has since left the firm.

Pruitt had insisted the condo deal was a proper business arrangement. Pruitt couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday, and Washington attorney Cleta Mitchell, who sometimes speaks on his behalf, declined to comment, saying she had not reviewed the new ethics finding.

The EPA’s own internal watchdog office closed its probe of the condo deal earlier without ruling on the ethics, saying its investigators were unable to interview Pruitt after he resigned.

Because of that, the Office of Government Ethics says, it also is unable to determine whether the condo deal was something that Pruitt should have reported as a valuable gift. The federal government’s top ethics office therefore is refusing to certify that Pruitt’s financial disclosure report for his last months in office complies with federal ethics codes.

The Office of Government Ethics has only limited enforcement authority regarding ethics rules for senior officials, and it was unclear where the new findings left the many ethics allegations against Pruitt over his time at the EPA.

Democratic lawmakers earlier asked the FBI to look into the scandals surrounding Pruitt. The Justice Department has not publicly disclosed how it responded to those requests.

Democratic lawmakers, now in control of the House, largely have focused oversight hearings on more recent issues involving President Donald Trump’s administration.

Support The TPM Journalism Fund
  • Contributions allow us to hire more journalists
  • Contributions allow us to provide free memberships to those who cannot afford them
  • Contributions support independent, non-corporate journalism
Comments
advertisement
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Senior Editor:
Special Projects Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Publisher:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front-End Developer:
Senior Designer:
SPECIAL DEAL FOR PAST TPM MEMBERS
40% OFF AN ANNUAL PRIME MEMBERSHIP
REJOIN FOR JUST $30