By Keith GabyFollow Published March 7, 2018 in Politics Explores the intersection of politics and climate change.
News is breaking this week in Washington about another ethical lapse on the part of Scott Pruitt’s embattled agency – one that goes beyond the administrator’s personal preference for taxpayer-funded luxury travel.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued an ethics waiver to one of Pruitt’s political appointees, John Konkus, to let him work for unknown outside private clients. These clients, and their political or commercial interests, won’t be divulged, raising troubling questions about possible conflicts of interest.
We already know that Konkus – a Republican operative from Florida who worked for a political consulting firm with Koch Brothers’ entities and GOP candidates on its client roster – was screening EPA grants for political suitability.
Konkus calls climate change “the double C-word” and vets grants accordingly.
He is now one of two employees in senior EPA leadership positions allowed to earn $135,000+ government salaries while also drawing paychecks from outside clients that may have a direct stake in EPA’s work.
EPA appointee can “solicit prospective clients”
The second ethics waiver Pruitt cleared this week was for Patrick Davis, a political appointee in EPA’s Denver office who owns a Republican political consulting firm. Davis will be allowed to “solicit prospective clients” as he continues to receive his taxpayer salary.
It’s worth noting that his prior private-sector work was already controversial. Davis was accused of inappropriately steering hundreds of thousands of dollars from a conservative PAC to organizations linked to himself and his friends.
All this continues to call into question Pruitt’s focus: Is it on EPA’s mission of protecting the environment and public health – or on the personal and political interests of his inner circle?
A pattern of ethical lapses and conflicts
Since taking the helm at the agency, Pruitt has come under fire for a series of questionable appointments to leading EPA roles – either because he put industry representatives in charge of regulating the companies they came from, or simply because his own personal and financial ties came into play.
Administrator Pruitt also, of course, is the subject of three separate investigations by the EPA Inspector General for his travel and use of government money after flying first class and using expensive military aircraft. All the while, he operates under a cloak of secrecy.
This week we’ve seen once again how Pruitt, one of President Trump’s most trusted allies in Washington, is helping to fill the swamp.