EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on Wednesday defended the extremely good deal he got on a Washington, D.C. condo lease last year — from one half of a lobbyist power couple — by saying his landlord’s husband wasn’t subsequently listed as an EPA lobbyist.
Except he was.
“Steve Hart is someone that was not registered as a lobbyist in 2017,” Pruitt told Sen. Tom Udall (D-MN) during a budget hearing Wednesday. “He’s a longtime associate and friend.”
Udall pointed out that Hart was listed as a lobbyist this year, and that the lobbying giant Hart chaired until very recently, Williams & Jensen, said in a statement on the day of Hart’s resignation that “Mr. Hart had lobbying contact with the Environmental Protection Agency in the first quarter of 2018.”
“Do you think that’s acceptable? To have this individual, Mr. Hart, who’s a lobbyist, and then you rent a room from him at a pretty good deal?” Udall pressed.
“The filing that you’re referring to was for the first quarter of 2018, and it was for the firm, and Mr. Hart was not listed on that disclosure.”
Below is a screenshot of the filing in question, with Mr. Hart listed as lobbying the EPA about “[i]ssues relating to support for EPA Chesapeake Bay Programs” on behalf of Smithfield Foods, the meat processing corporation, in the first quarter of this year.
On the same lobbying disclosure, Hart is listed as a Smithfield Foods lobbyist for the Senate and House of Representatives, in addition to the EPA.
And in 2017, Pruitt met with Hart in person, along with a former executive at Smithfield Foods who now sits on the board of the Smithfield Foundation, the company’s charitable arm. Hart met with Pruitt and the former Smithfield Food executive, Dennis Treacy, in early 2017 as part of a meeting about the Chesapeake Bay cleanup program, the New York Times and Politico reported.
Both Hart and Smithfield Foods have denied any EPA lobbying relationship, despite the disclosure from Williams & Jensen.
Later on Wednesday, Pruitt admitted in response to Udall’s questioning that an aide of his, Millan Hupp, had searched for apartments for Pruitt and his wife “on personal time” without being compensated for the work.
“Then that’s a gift,” Udall said. “That’s in violation of federal law.”