News & Politics

Petty? Environmentalist Senator Tries to Disbar Trump EPA Head Scott Pruitt

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., points to a chart as he questions Environmental Protection Agency Administrator-designate, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Last week, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) signed a letter urging the state of Oklahoma Bar to revoke the legal license of Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt. Whitehouse, who is bankrolled by environmentalist groups, wrote to an ally in the head of the Oklahoma Bar Association (OBA), who attacked Pruitt’s nomination as “the worst thing in the history of our environment!”

Whitehouse alleged that Pruitt’s “misleading answers, evasiveness, and stonewalling” constitute conduct “unbecoming of an attorney who is also a public official.” But the Democratic senator must have known he was addressing an environmentalist brother-in-arms.

While Whitehouse’s letter was addressed to Gina Hendryx, a general counsel at OBA, the senator likely knew that OBA’s president, Garvin Isaacs, harbors a grudge against Pruitt (who served as Oklahoma’s attorney general from 2011 to 2017) — a planetary grudge.

“It’s the worst thing in the history of our environment!” Isaacs told the New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer last December. “We are in danger. The whole country is in danger. Our kids are in danger.”

Then came the kicker: “People have got to do something about the Citizens United decision that is turning our country into an oligarchy run by oil-and-gas interests.”

Sounds like Pruitt is guaranteed to get a fair hearing before the OBA, right?

Isaacs is not the only environmentalist liberal decrying money in politics. In fact, Whitehouse himself was the lead sponsor for the Disclose Act, which would force political organizations to disclose donations of more than $10,000.

While liberals like Whitehouse argue that such restrictions would cut down on the “oligarchy” of rich donors buying elections, free speech advocates defend citizens’ right to donate anonymously to political groups. In fact, the 2016 Republican primary, and Trump’s victory over Clinton, definitively proved that “millionaires” and “billionaires” cannot buy elections.

These arguments aside, in 2012, Whitehouse actually left an event promoting his “dark money” free speech restrictions — to fundraise for a political outside organization. The fundraiser benefitted the Alliance for Health Reform, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to “affordable, quality health care and long-term care for all Americans.” Whitehouse’s bill would not cover this organization, because it cannot advocate for political candidates. Even so, this departure was notable.

Even more notable were the donations from environmentalists that Whitehouse received. In 2012, his campaign took $82,083 from environmental groups, according to OpenSecrets. For the 2018 cycle, he has already raised $115,098 from environmental groups.

In 2014, the senator was a featured guest for a fundraiser launched by radical environmentalist Tom Steyer, who spent $100 million helping Senate Democrats that cycle.

But the green alliance against Pruitt doesn’t end with Whitehouse and Isaacs. The Rhode Island senator didn’t start the OBA’s investigation into Pruitt — an environmentalist group did, working hand in hand with Oklahoma Professor Kristen van de Biezenbos (who donated $50 to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign).

The Center for Biological Diversity, which first petitioned OBA to disbar Pruitt, works “to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction.” How does the center aim to do this? “Through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.”

Last week, in addition to celebrating Whitehouse’s decision to back the Center’s complaint against Pruitt, the Center for Biological Diversity reported, “House Appropriations Committee Greenlights Trump’s Destructive Border Wall.”

Rather than go after Pruitt on the Hill, where the EPA director allegedly made false statements about his email in congressional hearings, Whitehouse has targeted Pruitt in his home state, with the help of environmental groups and an exceedingly biased OBA president.

Whether or not Pruitt lied about his email, and whether or not it should lead to his disbarment, a fair trial in this setting seems impossible.

Furthermore, disbarring Pruitt would have no effect on his current job as EPA administrator. This attack would merely be a humiliating strike against a member of the Trump administration, motivated by environmental groups and animus against the former Oklahoma attorney general.

In Democrats seek to remove Pruitt, they should find a champion without Whitehouse’s conflicts of interest, and they should go through proper congressional channels, rather than striking a blow in Pruitt’s home state. Alternately, they could just kick him out by winning the presidency in 2020.