WASHINGTON (CN) – Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt’s mounting ethics violations call for a criminal investigation led by the FBI and the Department of Justice, House Democrats said on Friday.
In a three-page letter addressed to FBI director Christopher Wray and John Cronan, acting assistant attorney general at the Justice Department, the Democrats said this week’s revelation that Pruitt used his influence to procure a Chick-fil-A franchise for his wife prompted their request.
Pruitt’s alleged solicitation was unearthed in a series of emails obtained by the Sierra Club through a Freedom of Information Act request.
One of the administrator’s top aides, Sydney Hupp – who submitted her resignation on June 7 – sent an email to Dan Cathy, the restaurant chain’s chief executive officer, last year to try to coordinate the deal.
Reps. Don Beyer and Gerald Connolly of Virginia, Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Pramila Jayapal of Washington, Ruben Gallego of Arizona and Ted Lieu of California noted Pruitt had “seemingly confirmed” to reporters that he abused his power.
“Look, my wife is an entrepreneur herself, I love, she loves, we love Chick-Fil-A as a franchise of faith, and it’s one of the best in the country, and so that’s something we were very excited about … [We] need more of them in Tulsa and we need more of them across the country,” he said. “So, anyway, it’s an exciting time.”
Marilyn Pruitt, the administrator’s wife, was also the subject of conversation between Pruitt and Matthew Swift, chief executive at Concordia, a nonprofit which advocates for the expansion of public-private partnerships in government.
Pruitt’s wife eventually received $2,000 plus travel expenses from Concordia when she was hired to coordinate the group’s annual conference last September.
Pruitt also spoke at the conference.
These developments, plus the seemingly endless list of ethics infractions Pruitt has committed, left lawmakers with little choice but to call for an open investigation into his conduct, they said.
“We know that federal ethics law bar public officials from using their position or staff for private gain. Administrator Pruitt has certainly done just that,” the representatives wrote. “Further, his actions related to his wife’s employment and the quid-pro-quo condo situation with industry lobbyists may have crossed a line into criminal conduct punishable by fines or even by time in prison.”
Pruitt allegedly accepted a $50 per night condo lease deal in Washington, D.C., arranged by the wife of a lobbyist connected to industries he’s tasked to regulate.
Investigations launched by the EPA’s Inspector General, the Government Accountability Office and the Office for Management and Budget have been underway for several weeks.
Inspectors and auditors are also reviewing the administrator’s spending on personal travel – which exceeds $750,000 – plus $2.7 million spent on a 24-hour private security detail. His purchase of a $43,000 private phone booth for his office has also been questioned.
Pruitt also faces inquiries over his treatment of former staffers who claim he retaliated against them when they questioned his leadership practices as well as his use of administrative loopholes which gave his top staffers hefty pay raises.
The EPA did not immediately return request for comment.