Scott Pruitt, who resigned this summer from the Environmental Protection Agency amid a flurry of ethics inquiries, received $50,000 for his legal defense fund from a Wisconsin billionaire, according to a financial disclosure released Thursday.
The contribution came this year from Diane Hendricks, a businesswoman and major Republican donor, though it was not clear precisely when she donated to the “Scott Pruitt Legal Expenses Trust.” It also did not specify whether he had spent the money, or how.
In the financial disclosure form, which Pruitt was required to file upon leaving the agency, EPA officials made clear that he had not sought ethics advice before accepting the donation to offset his legal expenses. The disclosure covers this calendar year, through Pruitt’s resignation in early July.
“EPA ethics officials did not know of this contribution — believed to be in cash — until they received the termination report,” an agency comment noted.
Under Office of Government Ethics rules, officials are required to indicate whether they have received contributions in the form of money, or in kind.
While the gift might have helped alleviate some of Pruitt’s legal fees, it certainly did not cover the bills he amassed over the past year, as he sought to fend off roughly a dozen federal investigations into his first-class travels, a favorable condo rental from a lobbyist and allegations that he enlisted aides to help with personal errands.
Thursday’s disclosure shows that he racked up between $100,000 and $250,000 in bills from one Oklahoma-based law firm, and between $15,000 and $50,000 from another. He also reported credit card debt of between $15,000 and $50,000.
Hendricks did not return a call seeking comment Thursday.
Cleta Mitchell, who has served as Pruitt’s personal lawyer and helped set up his legal defense fund, said in an email that she does not speak on the administrator’s behalf. “The report speaks for itself,” she said.
In May, Pruitt told senators that he would publicly disclose any donations to his legal defense fund, and would not accept money from lobbyists or corporations with business before the EPA.
“I don’t accept donations. I don’t solicit donations. That’s done by attorneys and others,” he said during testimony before an appropriations panel.
Pruitt was forced to resign in early July after the controversies over his lavish spending, ethical lapses and management decisions eroded President Donald Trump’s confidence in one of his favored Cabinet members.
Pruitt has not wavered in his push to aggressively roll back the environmental regulations of the Obama era, and his doggedness in the job and loyalty to Trump allowed him to weather mounting ethics scandals for months, including questions about the installation of a $43,000 soundproof phone booth in his office and reports that he repeatedly had subordinates help in his wife’s job hunt.
That quest included setting up a call with Chick-fil-A executives in which he discussed his wife becoming a franchisee, as well as outreach to a conservative group that eventually hired Marlyn Pruitt. Separately, in May 2017, Pruitt introduced his wife to the chief executive of the New York City-based nonprofit Concordia, which later paid her $2,000 for work on a conference that he addressed in his official EPA capacity. The Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative legal group, confirmed to the Post in June that it had hired Maryln Pruitt to work “”temporarily as an independent contractor,” but did not specify what it paid her or the duration of her contract.
On Thursday, Pruitt disclosed that the consulting business she launched last year, called MP Strategies, brought in $54,166. Pruitt included a note on the form that stated the business was “owned and operated solely” by his wife.
“None of the income was for any appearance, speech or article, but rather for the performance services for entities and persons not subject to regulation by the EPA and not from any prohibited source.”