Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, along with Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island; and Edward J. Markey, D-Massachusetts, called on the Environmental Protection Agency on May 2 to turn over all documents related to the circumstances of the planned event, after EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s cancellation of a scheduled keynote speech at a May 5 Oklahoma Republican Party gala.

EPA announced cancellation of the event after Whitehouse submitted a formal complaint to the Office of Special Counsel citing an event invitation that invoked Pruitt’s official position to publicize and sell tickets in order to raise money for the Oklahoma Republican Party. The senators also seek information on steps Pruitt is taking to ensure his compliance with the Hatch Act going forward.

The senators wrote, “Many of us raised concerns during your confirmation process that your long track record of making direct political solicitations from companies and industries you now regulate, participating in political fundraising events and chairing the boards of political organizations like the Republican Attorney Generals Association and the Rule of Law Defense Fund presented a high risk of conflicts of interest. The circumstances surrounding the May 5 Gala exacerbate those concerns. Devon Energy and Koch Industries, for example, are two of the companies with direct financial ties to you and the OKGOP and that are regulated by EPA. Had you attended the gala, your presence there would reasonably have been seen as an opportunity to curry favor with you by making political donations to your political allies.”

The Hatch Act permits federal employees to speak at a political fundraiser as long as they are not on duty, appear only in their personal capacity and do not solicit political contributions. Considering the OKGOP invitation text invoked Pruitt’s official position to publicize and sell tickets to the gala and raise money for the OKGOP, his participation would have violated the Hatch Act.

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