Americans have railed for years against what many see as a revolving door between government offices and U.S. industries, and though President Donald Trump had promised to “drain the swamp” if elected, former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s latest venture shows the revolving door is still well at work.
According to a Wednesday New York Times report, Pruitt — who resigned his position amid numerous ethics investigations — is in talks to become a “consultant to the Kentucky coal mining tycoon Joseph W. Craft III.”
Mr. Craft, the chief executive of Alliance Resource Partners and a major Republican donor, enjoyed a close relationship with the E.P.A. during Mr. Pruitt’s tenure. Mr. Craft met with Mr. Pruitt at least seven times in Mr. Pruitt’s first 14 months at the agency and in December provided him with courtside seats at a University of Kentucky basketball game, a school where Mr. Craft is a prominent supporter.
Pruitt reportedly detailed his plans to form a new consulting firm by way of one-on-one discussions with several industry executives during last week’s Kentucky Coal Association meeting.
“Any discussions that occurred between Mr. Craft and Mr. Pruitt are preliminary, and do not involve him becoming an employee of Alliance Resource Partners,” said Heath Lovell, vice president for public affairs at Alliance, in the statement. “Obviously, any discussions would not involve lobbying the federal government.”
Under an ethics pledge imposed by President Trump, Mr. Pruitt would be barred from directly lobbying the E.P.A. for five years in any new role, but he would not be restricted from working as a private consultant advising the company on E.P.A. related matters or working on the state level to influence regulatory policy.
Pruitt’s attendance and speech at the meeting were not publicized, according to The Times, and he was not listed on the association’s website with other speakers.
Tyler White, the president of the association, acknowledged Mr. Pruitt’s presence at the event after it was pointed out that he was photographed sitting with Gov. Matt Bevin of Kentucky.
The association invited Mr. Pruitt “because we strive to provide our membership with high quality speakers who have unique experience, knowledge or expertise on issues impacting our industry,” Mr. White said in a statement. “Also, as a native Kentuckian, we were especially proud to have him speak,” he said. Mr. White said Mr. Pruitt had not been paid to address the meeting.
Prior to joining the Trump administration, Pruitt served as Oklahoma state attorney general, where he worked to shield the coal industry from federal regulatory action.
Democrats voiced no surprise that the former EPA administrator would enter the private sector in service of that same industry:
“Scott Pruitt has always been doing the dirty work for coal millionaires,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “The only difference is now he’ll be paid by them directly rather than ripping off the taxpayer.”