GOP donor gave Pruitt $50,000 for legal defense

A major Republican donor gave former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy — Sponsored by the National Biodiesel Board — Court blocks Atlantic coast pipeline | Kerry calls Trump climate actions 'profoundly dangerous' | EPA asked to investigate Pruitt Fox News hits Watchdog groups call on EPA to probe past interaction with Fox News Trump moves to relax Obama-era water protections MORE $50,000 for his legal defense fund before he stepped down in July.

In an ethics filing the EPA released Thursday, Justina Fugh, the agency’s top ethics official, said the donation was “believed to be in cash” and that Pruitt did not seek ethics advice on receiving it. The EPA did not know about it until he filed the disclosure in November, a requirement upon leaving the government.

The gift came from billionaire Diane Hendricks, whose company, Hendricks Holding Co., owns building supply company ABC Supply Co. She lives in Beloit, Wis., and has contributed significant funds to Republican campaigns, including President TrumpDonald John TrumpProsecutors investigating Trump inaugural fund, pro-Trump super PAC for possible illegal foreign donations: NY Times George Conway: Why take Trump's word over prosecutors' if he 'lies about virtually everything' Federal judge says lawsuit over Trump travel ban waivers will proceed MORE’s presidential campaign.

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Hendricks’s company did not respond to a request for comment on the gift, nor did Cleta Mitchell, who filed the paperwork to establish Pruitt’s legal defense fund.

The Hendricks gift is the only contribution to the legal defense fund that Pruitt disclosed in the filing, which covers all of 2018 through July, when he resigned amid numerous ethics and spending scandals.

During Pruitt’s tenure, he was accused of taking a sweetheart apartment rental deal from an energy lobbyist, spending millions of taxpayer dollars on security and using government resources and staff for personal gain.

Some of the allegations were found to be true, though the EPA’s Office of Inspector General recently said it closed some of its investigations into Pruitt when he resigned.

Pruitt first disclosed in a May Senate hearing that he had a legal defense fund to raise money to fight the various misconduct allegations against him.

He promised to disclose all of its donors, and not take money from industries with business before the EPA. It’s unclear from Thursday’s filing if he lived up to those promises.

The disclosure also revealed for the first time that MP Strategies LLC, a consulting firm owned by Pruitt’s wife Marlyn, took in $54,166 during the reporting period. Pruitt allegedly used EPA staff to search for jobs for Marlyn, including in conservative politics and regarding a Chick-fil-A franchise.

Pruitt told EPA that he had between $115,002 and $300,000 in debt to two law firms for legal fees: Crowe & Dunlevy and Riggs Abney Neal Turpen.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and other House Democrats asked Pruitt in a May letter for numerous details about his defense fund, including whether ethics officials would pre-screen donors and how disclosures would happen.

Aaron Fritschner, Beyer’s spokesman, said Thursday that the lawmaker never heard back from Pruitt on the questions.