Trump's EPA chief Scott Pruitt is once more facing accusations of bald-faced corruption and ethics violations after the New York Times reported that he and his son enjoyed a courtside experience at a high-profile college basketball game last year—sitting in the VIP seats of a billionaire coal company executive Joseph W. Craft III who was actively lobbying the Trump administration to loosen restrictions on the industry.
"Because his seat was so close to the court, he was visible during the telecast," the Times reports. "A video clip on Twitter and Instagram showed Mr. Pruitt and his college-age son, Cade, standing in the players’ entrance as the team walked to the court."
Scott Pruitt and his son went to a college basketball game and sat in seats reserved for seven-figure donors, courtesy of a billionaire coal executive who's lobbied the EPA on issues important to his company--and is looking for major victories under Pruitt https://t.co/PkSX6TCXM7— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) June 2, 2018
As CREW noted, there's no record Pruitt paid for the tickets, though a spokesperson for agency claims Pruitt paid $130 for each. "An email from the E.P.A. ethics office approving in advance the purchase of the tickets said that payment would be made by check, but since it was a cash transaction, there is no receipt." As the Times further notes:
Pruitt's attendance at the game, the details of which have not been previously reported, followed a year of regulatory victories for Mr. Craft, who maintains close ties to Mr. Pruitt even as he has lobbied the E.P.A. on issues important to his company, Alliance Resource Partners. And unlike other executives with whom Mr. Pruitt is known to have close ties — like the oilman Harold Hamm or the coal mogul Robert E. Murray — Mr. Craft has stayed relatively under the radar.
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Even as the specific instances of possible ethics violations by Pruitt and the resulting federal inquiries into his alleged improprieties have become almost too numerous to count, environmental activists have been aggressive in demanding his ouster but also consistent in noting that it is Pruitt and Trump's aggressive pro-fossil fuel and corporate-friendly agenda—especially in the era of a runaway climate crisis—which remains the duo's largest shared criminal endeavor.
"While many of the varied scandals plaguing poor Scott Pruitt are intertwined with his comfy relationship with fossil fuel special interests," wrote journalist Justin Anderson in a column last week, "that should only make it easier for media outlets to connect the profit-seeking motives of extractive industries with the complicity of the federal government in willful ignorance on climate change."
Responding to the Times article on Saturday, 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben simply stated: