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A right-wing dark money group called on Trump to fire Scott Pruitt

More and more Republicans are growing weary of the EPA administrator’s escalating ethics problems.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is alienating his allies with his mounting scandals. The latest revelation shows that he asked a donor to find a job for his wife.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is alienating his allies with his mounting scandals. The latest reports say he asked a donor to find a job for his wife.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Umair Irfan is a correspondent at Vox writing about climate change, Covid-19, and energy policy. Irfan is also a regular contributor to the radio program Science Friday. Prior to Vox, he was a reporter for ClimateWire at E&E News.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s nonstop scandals are finally beginning to test the patience of some of his staunchest political allies.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) has been one of Pruitt’s biggest patrons. Pruitt previously served as Oklahoma’s attorney general, and the two have known each other a long time. One of Inhofe’s former aides, Andrew Wheeler, is now Pruitt’s second-in-command at the EPA.

But on Wednesday, in a conversation about Pruitt with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, Inhofe said, “I think something needs to happen to change that, and one of those alternatives is for him to leave that job.”

“I would say this that there’s a guy behind him, Andrew Wheeler, who’s really qualified too, so that might be a good swap,” Inhofe added.

Ingraham also called on Pruitt to resign following reports that the administrator had pressed lobbyists and donors to get a job for his wife, the latest in a long, long list of alleged transgressions.

The day before, a right-wing dark money group called the American Future Fund released a withering attack ad calling on President Trump to fire Pruitt. The group is a 501(c)(4) organization from West Des Moines, Iowa.

“Scott Pruitt is a swamp monster,” says the narrator. “Mr. President, you know what to do.”

It was followed by an editorial in the National Review, the same conservative publication that published a fawning cover story on Pruitt last December, calling for him to step down.

Four House Republicans have also openly called for Pruitt to step down. A few Senate Republicans have grown weary of Pruitt but have stopped short of demanding his removal.

In particular, Iowa Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst have turned against Pruitt for his stance on biofuels regulations. Pruitt’s EPA granted 25 refiners waivers to annual requirements to mix in biofuels on the grounds that the regulation causes these refiners economic hardship.

The main renewable fuel in the United States is ethanol made from corn, and Iowa is the largest producer in the country. It accounts for 3.5 percent of the state’s gross domestic product, totaling $4.6 billion, and employs 43,000 people. Letting refineries off the hook for adding in ethanol shrinks the market for Iowa’s corn-based fuel.

Grassley told reporters last month on a conference call that the EPA needs to take a different approach “or I’m going to be calling for Pruitt to resign because I’m done playing around with this.”

But this week’s wave of condemnations from the right were prompted by a report in the Washington Post that Pruitt enlisted an aide, Samantha Dravis, to reach out to Republican donors to find a job for his wife, Marlyn Pruitt.

Dravis resigned earlier this year, and the EPA’s inspector general is investigating allegations that she didn’t show up to work for months.

Leonard Leo, the executive vice president of the Federalist Society, passed on Marlyn Pruitt’s résumé to the Judicial Crisis Network, where the former school nurse worked until earlier this year.

Asking political donors to find jobs for family members is a potential breach of ethics rules, and, of course, Democratic lawmakers were eager to pounce.

However, Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan have chosen to feign ignorance about Pruitt:

And White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders in the Thursday press briefing offered few clues to Pruitt’s standing, only saying, “Certainly we have some areas of concern in some of these allegations.”

Pruitt’s fate still lies with President Trump, and despite the scandals, he’s still standing by Pruitt. The administrator has helped deliver some of Trump’s biggest policy wins to date and is continuing to roll back environmental regulations. It seems the two remain loyal to each other.

Even as Pruitt’s scandal du jour makes headlines, it’s important to remember that he’s making major policy changes at the EPA that could impact the health of millions of Americans.

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