Consultant with energy clients helped Pruitt get Rose Bowl tickets
A communications consultant with oil and natural gas clients helped Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt get tickets to the Rose Bowl football game, a top House Democrat says.
The consultant, Renzi Stone, is the CEO of Saxum, a public relations firm based in Pruitt’s home state of Oklahoma, which has had clients such as the American Petroleum Institute, GE Oil & Gas and Plains All American Pipeline, which Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said has a petition pending before the EPA.
A spokesman for Plains All American said the company’s contract with Saxum ended in November 2017, and was only for Oklahoma-based work for a project.
Stone also sits on the University of Oklahoma’s Board of Regents. Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, says Stone used that position to help Pruitt get game tickets to watch the University of Oklahoma play.
The revelation came from a wide-ranging interview that the Oversight Committee’s staff had with Millan Hupp, Pruitt’s former scheduler.
Pruitt is already under numerous investigations and scrutiny over allegations that he’s used his position and government resources for personal gain, in violation of federal ethics rules.
“Federal ethics rules prohibit government employees from accepting gifts, such as tickets to sporting events, unless they pay ‘market value,’” Cummings wrote in a Friday letter to Stone seeking detailed information about the tickets.
“Moreover, a government employee may not accept a gift provided ‘because of the employee’s official position.’”
EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox accused Cummings of “misconstruing the facts.”
“Renzi Stone, a friend of Administrator Pruitt and regent to the University of Oklahoma, simply connected Pruitt to the athletic department. Pruitt purchased the tickets at face value from the OU athletic department. To report otherwise is false,” Wilcox said.
Stone confirmed Friday that he helped Pruitt get the tickets, but said it’s a normal process that happens every year when the Oklahoma Sooners’ bowl games approach.
“Scott Pruitt, my friend since 2001, asked through an aide if he could buy Rose Bowl tix. I made connection to OU ticket office. He bought them. That’s it,” Stone tweeted, adding that he has no clients with EPA business.
Hupp told investigators that she didn’t know how Pruitt paid for the tickets for the New Year’s Day game, which Oklahoma lost to the University of Georgia, 54 to 48.
But The New York Times reported that Pruitt paid face value himself for the four seats for him and his family near the 50-yard line, $175 each. He bought them five days before the game, when they were selling on the open market for as much as seven times as much, the Times said.
Stone’s referral helped Pruitt get the tickets from a special allotment reserved by the University of Oklahoma, which the university can release at its discretion, the Times reported, citing confirmations from the university.
— This story was updated.
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