On Tuesday, yet another story was published about ethically dubious actions by Scott Pruitt, who is already having quite a week. According to the report from the Washington Post, soon after beginning his term as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Pruitt reached out to the president of Chick-fil-A to try to get his wife a job as the owner of a Chick-fil-A franchise.
According to the Post:
Three months after Scott Pruitt was sworn in as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, his executive scheduler emailed Dan Cathy, chairman and president of the fast food company Chick-fil-A, with an unusual request: Would Cathy meet with Pruitt to discuss “a potential business opportunity”?
A government scheduler—we’ll return to her later—arranged a call, which was later canceled. Pruitt eventually spoke with someone from the company’s legal department. A Chick-fil-A spokesperson confirmed the nature of the call to the Post, and email records released under a Freedom of Information Act request by the Sierra Club corroborate the exchange and others Pruitt had in an effort to obtain work for his wife.
His wife, Marlyn, started the franchisee application, the company told the Post, but never finished. Around the same time, Pruitt approached the chief executive of a New York nonprofit called Concordia and asked him to call Marlyn. According to the Post, the executive and Marlyn Pruitt talked about “her interest in event planning for nonprofits,” and the executive offered her the opportunity to become involved in event planning for the organization.
That executive paid Marlyn Pruitt $2,000 for three days’ work in helping to organize the nonprofit’s annual conference, at which Scott Pruitt was invited to speak. In his travel to the conference, he spent $1,200 on first-class plane tickets and $670 on one night in a hotel. (“Neither Mr. nor Mrs. Pruitt ever solicited a position for Mrs. Pruitt at Concordia, nor was it a condition of the agreement for the administrator to speak,” the executive told the Post.)
Several EPA aides told the Post that Pruitt had repeatedly expressed that he wanted his wife to get a job because he was anxious about the cost of maintaining his homes in Washington and Oklahoma. Helping his wife get a job by using his prominent position would seem, then, to be a matter of personal gain—something that is prohibited by federal ethics laws.
Federal ethic rules also ban public officials from using their staff for private gain, meaning his use of the government scheduler to arrange the call with Chick-fil-A’s president could also violate the rules. This is the same problem that emerged Monday when it was revealed that Pruitt had been questioned about tasking an aide with helping him find an apartment and a used Trump Hotel mattress. Weirdly enough, the aide in the mattress story, Millan Hupp, is the sister of the aide in Tuesday’s story, Sydney Hupp, according to the Post. Sydney Hupp left the EPA last year, the Post reports.
Pruitt, who, among the other members of the administration, has a particularly long list of scandals, is the subject of 12 federal investigations to do with his spending decisions as the head of the EPA and his ties to lobbyists. Ethics watchdogs have flagged his purchases of first-class flights for “security” reasons, his use of a 24-hour security detail in response to an overblown concern about threats, and the sweetheart deal in which he paid $50 a night to rent out a townhouse from a lobbyist.