The head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dropped out of an appearance at a Republican fundraiser after a Senate Democrat filed an ethics complaint.
Scott Pruitt said Thursday morning on Fox News Radio’s “Kilmeade and Friends” that he won't attend the Oklahoma Republican Party fundraiser, where he was originally scheduled to be keynote speaker next week, due to ethics concerns over an invitation sent out by the state party.
That invitation yielded a complaint from Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseWhat's that you smell in the Supreme Court? The Hill's Morning Report - Ins and outs: Powell renominated at Fed, Parnell drops Senate bid On The Money — Biden sticks with Powell despite pressure MORE (D-R.I.), who told the federal government’s ethics enforcer that Oklahoma's GOP improperly used Pruitt’s title, implying that attendees would be paying to meet with a federal official, which is illegal.
Pruitt said ethics officials approved his attendance at the event, but that the flyer, drafted after that approval, didn’t comply with ethics rules.
“What happened was the folks that invited me sent out an invitation, post that approval, that didn’t comply with federal law and federal ethics law so we’re not going to be able to attend because of the invitation,” Pruitt told host Brian Kilmeade.
“It was actually approved in advance by our EPA ethics office, but it was just what happened afterwards that prevented my attendance,” Pruitt said of the event.
The Hatch Act sets strict limits on the ability of federal employees to participate in any campaign-related activities, including fundraisers.
A flyer for the May 5 event read in part “You do not want to miss Pruitt at this year’s OKGOP Gala, as he discusses his plans to slash regulations, bring back jobs to Oklahoma, and decrease the size of the EPA!”
Whitehouse cited that flyer in his complaint to the Office of Special Counsel.
“The unmistakable impression one receives from the May 5 invitation is that by purchasing a ticket or agreeing to sponsor the OKGOP Gala, the attendee will have special access to a federal employee discussing official actions already taken, and to be taken in the future,” he wrote.
Pruitt was Oklahoma’s attorney general until his presidential appointment, an elected position. Before taking the EPA position, he was chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association and was closely linked to two political action committees, both of which shut down in January.
The Oklahoma GOP didn’t return a request for comment.