E.P.A. head Scott Pruitt, currently embroiled in an array of ethics controversies including a cushy housing deal in D.C., received a discount of roughly $100,000 on the 2003 purchase of a Tulsa house from a lobbyist for a telecom company he was responsible for overseeing as an Oklahoma state official.
According to the New York Times, the lobbyist, Marsha Lindsey, wanted to sell her home in Oklahoma’s state capitol as she prepared to retire. She sold the home for $375,000 to an intermediary, who one month later transferred ownership to Pruitt and a group of partners. Lindsey had paid $475,000 for the house in 2002, but her employer covered much of the difference in accordance with her contract, and now says two appraisers valued the home at an average of $390,000.
That employer, SBC Oklahoma, was impacted by Pruitt’s decisions on matters including rate regulation and a prior bribery case. Pruitt, as a state legislator and as state attorney general, sided with SBC in those and other matters. SBC, formerly Southwestern Bell, has since merged with AT&T.
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Pruitt purchased the home through a shell company, Capitol House L.L.C., and did not mention that entity in financial disclosure forms, a possible violation according to state standards. The shell company was shared, according to the E.P.A., between five co-owners. It was registered in the name of Kenneth Wagner, an associate of Pruitt’s who is now a high-ranking official at the E.P.A.
The shell company’s mortgage for the home was issued by SpiritBank, then headed by Albert Kelly, who is also now part of Pruitt’s E.P.A. Kelly has since been barred for life from the banking industry, for undisclosed reasons possibly linked to loan practices, according to the FDIC.
Two years later, in 2005, Pruitt’s group sold the home for $95,000 more than the initial sale price. Despite this, an E.P.A. spokeswoman responding to questions from the Times said that Mr. Pruitt’s dealings “were ethical,” but reportedly did not reply to questions about Oklahoma disclosure requirements.