Former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt has contacted two billionaires, signaling a potential run for Senate, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
Pruitt, the first EPA administrator former President Donald Trump appointed, phoned Harold Hamm and coal baron Joseph Craft III in recent days, according to the Post, who cited sources familiar with the matter. Both Hamm and Craft earned their fortunes in the fossil fuel industry.
The former Trump official’s calls to the billionaire fossil fuel magnates is the latest sign that Pruitt is eyeing a run for the open Oklahoma Senate seat, according to the Post. Politico reported on March 17 that Pruitt was planning a potential bid for the seat, citing a source familiar with the matter.
Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe, who is 87, announced he would retire by the end of the year, opening the door for a special election to fill his seat. The Oklahoma senator’s term is set to expire in 2027.
Already, former Oklahoma House Speaker T. W. Shannon, Rep. Markwayne Mullin and Inhofe’s chief of staff Luke Holland have announced they will run to fill the vacancy, according to Politico. Former Democratic Oklahoma Rep. Kendra Horn will also run for the seat.
But Pruitt, a well-known Oklahoma public figure who previously served as the state’s attorney general, could be well-positioned to win the seat despite a crowded field, according to the Post.
Pruitt’s tenure leading Trump’s EPA was ultimately cut short amid a series of congressional inquiries into alleged ethics violations.
“The unrelenting attacks on me, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us,” Pruitt wrote in his letter of resignation to Trump on July 5, 2018.
While there were a series of alleged scandals facing Pruitt throughout his tenure at EPA, a New York Times article published prior to his resignation was “just the murder weapon,” a source with knowledge of the situation told the Daily Caller News Foundation at the time.
Pruitt had been accused of ordering staff to delete official calendar entries, flying first class on trips, having a heavy security detail and renting a room owned by a renowned lobbyist. Environmentalists had also called for Pruitt to be fired, saying he had “sabotaged” the EPA’s mission.
“Since taking the helm at the (EPA), Scott Pruitt has sabotaged the agency’s mission by strangling its budget, tearing down environmental safeguards, putting industry insiders in charge of the agency, and stamping out science that supports environmental protection,” the Natural Resources Defense Council said in 2018.
“His reckless agenda is putting polluters first, while putting millions of Americans at grave risk of harm,” the group added. “In addition, Pruitt’s unethical and possibly illegal behavior has violated the public trust and eroded the confidence of Americans in the EPA’s ability to protect us.”
Representatives for Pruitt, Hamm, and Craft did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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