CREW sues EPA over missing Pruitt gift disclosure
Update: CREW and the EPA have agreed to dismiss this lawsuit with prejudice. Read the stipulation of dismissal below, and see the missing gift disclosure and read CREW’s blog post about the victory here.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on October 18, 2018 over its refusal to release an inventory of items that was incorporated by reference in former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s financial disclosure report, but not released to the public. Pruitt’s resignation followed a series of ethics scandals, and this suit will help ensure transparency about gifts that Pruitt received while in office.
Pruitt’s public financial disclosure report, filed in July, includes a vague description that he received “various” unidentified “items as part of events, meetings, or otherwise, as an extension of and in conjunction with [his] position.” These items should have been evaluated to determine whether they be treated as gifts, and disclosed as such. But they were not. Instead, the disclosure “incorporate[s]” the items “by reference . . . for consideration,” without describing them, effectively shielding this information from public scrutiny.
Under the Ethics in Government Act, gifts provided to government officials must be specifically identified in public disclosure reports, including the source and the value of the gift. Under the same law, the EPA must “permit inspection” of the full report to anyone who asks for it. The EPA refused CREW’s request for the inventory of “items” Pruitt received during his tenure as EPA Administrator, despite the fact that the inventory was expressly incorporated by reference in Pruitt’s public financial disclosure report.
Given Pruitt’s track record of accepting expensive gifts (like a steeply discounted rental rate on a condo in Washington D.C.), it is in the public interest to know the full of extent of gifts he was provided during his tenure as EPA Administrator. CREW is suing for Pruitt’s full personal financial disclosure report, including the inventory of gifts incorporated by reference in his disclosure report.