News accounts now suggest Scott Pruitt didn’t know what he was talking about in claiming there was no conflict of interest when he rented a room from Washington D.C. lobbyist J. Steven Hart.
As the Daily Beast reported, Pruitt got it wrong in recently telling Fox News, “Mr. Hart has no clients who have business before this agency.”
It also turns out Hart is a former Oklahoman who got his degree from the University of Oklahoma and was a Certified Public Accountant in Oklahoma in 1976. After working for the federal government in the 1980s, he joined the lobbying firm of Williams and Jensen in Washington, D.C. and became its president in 1991.
Hart is considered to be one of Washington’s top lobbyists by the Washingtonian magazine and The Hill newspaper.
The Daily Beast reviewed disclosure forms at the EPA and found they showed Hart had personally represented a natural gas company and a major manufacturer that had business before the agency at the time Pruitt was renting the room at Hart’s condo.
One of those clients is fighting an EPA order in court to pay more than $100 million in environmental cleanup costs.
As the Daily Beast put it, the records suggest “that Pruitt is either lying or is woefully unfamiliar with the operations of his own agency.”
The New York Times previously reported that Hart’s firm, Williams & Jensen, represented a company that got a pipeline expansion project approved by the EPA. But that only scratches the surface of Hart’s deep involvement in the energy industry—and advocacy on behalf of clients with business before the agency that his one-time tenant leads.
“We know that Steven Hart’s firm had clients before the EPA,” said Craig Holman, Government Affairs Lobbyist for the good-government group Public Citizen. “So his insistence that there is no conflict of interest is just off the wall.”
The Huffington Post also reported Hart’s name had been scratched out as the landlord on the controversial condo lease and replaced with the name of Hart’s wife.
It’s resulted in three Republicans in the House now calling for Pruitt’s resignation.