Pruitt once bought house with Oklahoma lobbyist: report

Pruitt once bought house with Oklahoma lobbyist: report
© Greg Nash

During his time as an Oklahoma state senator, now-Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas EPA inspector general to resign Overnight Energy: EPA watchdog says agency failed to properly monitor asbestos at schools| Watchdog won’t investigate former Superfund head’s qualifications| Florence causes toxic coal ash spill in North Carolina MORE did not disclose that he was sharing a house with a lobbyist who frequently had business with the state.

Fifteen years ago, Pruitt purchased a home in Oklahoma City with Justin Whitefield, a lobbyist who represented many companies that sought changes to the state's workers' compensation rules. Pruitt championed those changes as a state senator, The New York Times reported Thursday.

The home the two purchased was registered to a shell company they owned along with four other associates.

The Times previously reported that the house was bought in 2003 at roughly a $100,000 discount from another lobbyist, Marsha Lindsey, whose telecommunications firm did business with the state legislature.

Pruitt acknowledged his partial ownership of the home in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week, telling Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) that he was responsible for "one sixth the purchase price."

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Pruitt said at the hearing that the company used to buy the home was not a shell company but instead a limited liability company, which he said "is normally how you buy real estate in Oklahoma."

When asked if he paid taxes on the property, Pruitt demurred, saying he had given all the relevant details to his accountant who would have ultimately made that call.

But Pruitt never publicly disclosed that one co-owner and sometimes-housemate was a lobbyist, the Times reported.

Two other owners were Kenneth Wagner, Pruitt's law school friend who now works at the EPA, and Jon Jiles, a health care executive who contributed to Pruitt’s political run.

“Justin Whitefield — who passed away in 2006 — owned one-sixth of the LLC and received taxable income from Capitol House LLC," EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said in a statement. "Whitefield was a practicing lawyer who had business in Oklahoma City. Pruitt was a practicing lawyer and a part-time legislator who only stayed in the house when he was in Oklahoma City for business.”

The news comes a month after reports that Pruitt, as EPA chief last summer, rented a condo from the wife of an energy lobbyist. In what critics call a "sweetheart deal," Pruitt paid $50 a night for the Capitol Hill condo, only paying when he slept in there. It was reported that his daughter additionally stayed at the condo, using another room, for a period of time he was there.

Pruitt is under fire for the rental that many have called a grave conflict of interest and he faced fierce questioning about the deal last week in front of two House congressional committees. Pruitt has since moved to another rental.