Nearly four years after he resigned from the Trump administration amid a cloud of scandal and profligate spending of taxpayer dollars, Scott Pruitt — yes that Scott Pruitt — is running for Senate.
Pruitt’s gunning for the seat currently held by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), who won reelection in 2020 but announced in February that he would be retiring, triggering a special election for November. Inhofe has endorsed his former chief of staff Luke Holland for the seat.
As the administrator of Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency, Pruitt had one core competency: He skillfully deregulated whatever he could get his hands on.
“The President feels as though Scott Pruitt has done a really good job with deregulating the government,” a Trump White House spokesperson said near the end of Pruitt’s 500-day tenure on the job.
But his deliciously wasteful spending — on everything from fountain pens to a soundproof phone booth to first-class flights (all the better to avoid being cursed out in the airport) — and the headlines it generated were an annoyance to the White House, and it ultimately did Pruitt in.
A few weeks before Pruitt’s exit, TPM attempted to tally his spending spree, including thousands on trips abroad, a leased SUV with Kevlar seats, and five-digit raises for a coterie of close advisors.
On his massive, 24/7 security detail alone, Pruitt cost taxpayers nearly $5 million — a bill that included “tactical pants.” At one point, the crack security team broke through a door, convinced Pruitt was unconscious inside, only to find him waking up from a nap.
In one case, Pruitt made headlines for a surprisingly good deal he secured — on rent. As EPA administrator, he lived in a D.C. condo owned by a lobbyist couple with business before the agency for… $50 a night, only due for the nights he slept there. He also, for some reason, attempted to secure a used mattress from a Trump hotel, one aide later said.
As EPA administrator, Pruitt also used government staffers efficiently, tasking them not only with their own official work, but also with side projects like job hunting for his wife, potentially to become a Chick-Fil-A franchisee.
We may never know the full history of Pruitt’s scandal-plagued time in the Trump administration. One ex-aide said that as administrator, Pruitt would remove unscrupulous events from his public schedule. Pruitt also resigned while several investigations were ongoing, stymying the process and keeping taxpayers in the dark.
Throughout it all, Pruitt was rumored to have his eye on his next move. Even back in 2018, there was buzz Pruitt would go after Inhofe’s seat.
“It’s not like ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,’ necessarily,” former Tulsa Mayor Dewey F. Bartlett Jr. told The New York Times after Pruitt’s resignation. “But I think he’s been seen as a person who tried hard, was pretty successful, and got beat up pretty bad.”
Still, with the Looney Tunes-sized raincloud of scandal having already soaked him once, and with Inhofe’s circle coalescing around the senator’s former chief of staff, Pruitt faces an uphill climb.
Or as one former EPA official under Pruitt put it to E&E News last month, “Does he really have that little self-awareness?”