EPA Pick Pruitt Awash in Industry Cash as Nomination Battle Heats Up
While one dark money group aims to get him confirmed, Scott Pruitt will also be 'among the first Cabinet-level appointees to enter office with a super PAC'
Determined to get "fossil fuel industry puppet" Scott Pruitt confirmed as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), interested parties are furiously pouring money into a new dark money political action group to counter the warnings from so-called "environmental extremists."
The new 501c4 group, Protecting America Now, sent around a flier obtained by Politico warning that "Pruitt's confirmation 'is not a certainty' and say[ing] that millions of dollars are needed for advertising and social media campaigns to counter anti-Pruitt campaigning from 'anti-business, environmental extremists,'" the outlet reported Friday.
Indeed, green groups have been sounding the alarm over President-elect Donald Trump's pick for top environmental post, fearful that the climate change denier and fierce opponent of environmental regulations will work to dismantle the agency he is appointed to lead.
As Politico noted, the "Environmental Defense Fund Action project has put six figures into an online and television ad campaign, and the Sierra Club in December dropped five figures on an online campaign targeting moderate senators from both parties" with anti-Pruitt messaging. He is also one of the appointees that Senate Democrats are planning to "aggressively target" during the confirmation hearings.
Reportedly the PAN flier highlights its status, which permits individual and corporate donors to remain anonymous, and solicits contributions ranging from $25,000 to $500,000.
"It is unclear precisely who is behind the campaign," Politico observed, but the website "appears to have been registered by Sagac Public Affairs, an Oklahoma City shop whose clients include a number of Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), as well as several fossil fuel companies and trade groups."
Pruitt also has a long record of coziness with the fossil fuel industry.
According to Public Citizen's new watchdog resource CorporateCabinet.org, Pruitt—who served as Oklahoma's attorney general since 2010—has received more than $300,000 from the fossil fuel industry since 2002.
What's more, it appears that another super PAC affiliated with Pruitt can continue to legally raise money even while he serves as EPA chief, according to a new analysis by E&E News, which he can use if he runs for office after his cabinet term ends.
"Pruitt's Super PAC, Liberty 2.0, can keep raising money from the corporate interests he is charged with regulating," wrote reporters Benjamin Storrow and Mike Soraghan, making him "among the first Cabinet-level appointees to enter office with such a super PAC."
Other Trump nominees associated with a super PAC include Housing and Urban Development nominee Ben Carson, Interior Department pick Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), and former Texas Governor and Energy Secretary nominee Rick Perry.
"Super PACs have been around for several election cycles," observe Storrow and Soraghan. "But only in 2016 did the barrier between candidates and super PACs dissolve so completely into a paper fiction."
Confirmation hearings begin next week, through Pruitt's has not yet been scheduled.