Democrats have questions for EPA about Pruitt’s rental agreement
IStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Democrats on the House panel with oversight over the Environmental Protection Agency are raising questions about Administrator Scott Pruitt’s controversial rental agreement.
As ABC News first reported last week, Pruitt rented a bedroom in a Capitol Hill condo in 2017 partially owned by Vicki Hart, the wife of lobbyist J. Steven Hart, who is registered to lobby for several environmental and energy concerns.
On Monday, several Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee wrote to Pruitt expressing concerns about the rental.
“We are concerned that the unique rental arrangement, in which you only paid rent on the nights you were in town for use of one bedroom in the home, could be a potential conflict of interest,” Reps. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., Diana DeGette, D-Colo., and Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., wrote in the letter.
Democrats want to know how Pruitt learned of the rental and whether he paid fair market value for the property, which they argue could have violated Pruitt’s ethics pledge not to accept gifts from registered lobbyists. They also want to know whether Pruitt left any “personal materials” in the bedroom when he wasn’t in town if the room was rented out to other tenants and whether he had access to other parts of the condo during his stays on Capitol Hill.
Asked about the Democrats’ letter, a Republican committee aide told ABC News the panel has reached out to the EPA for further information about the arrangement.
Pruitt’s daughter, McKenna Pruitt, used a second room in the condo during her White House internship last year, despite the claim from the EPA that Pruitt paid $50-a-night for a single bedroom in the brick townhouse steps away from congressional office buildings.
EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said Friday that the arrangement was not a gift and that the lease was “consistent with federal ethics regulations.” The agency released two statements from EPA ethics officials defending Pruitt’s arrangement.
“Under the terms of the lease, if the space was utilized for one 30-day month, then the rental cost would be $1500, which is a reasonable market value,” the EPA said in an ethics review released by the agency from principal deputy general counsel Kevin Minoli, the EPA’s designated agency ethics official.
Other apartments in the Northeast Washington duplex have rented for as much as $5,000-a-month, a source familiar with a neighboring lease told ABC News last week.
Democrats have asked for a response from the EPA by Monday, April 16th, ahead of Pruitt’s planned testimony before the panel on April 26th. Pruitt’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Democratic inquiry.
The EPA inspector general is reviewing a request to investigate Pruitt’s arrangement from Public Citizen, a nonpartisan watchdog group, a spokesperson said.
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