The lobbyist-owned condo where Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt stayed at a steep discount is now causing political headaches for another Republican lawmaker.
Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) admitted to federal regulators Thursday that he failed to disclose expenses associated with political fundraisers held at the same townhouse where Pruitt stayed for just $50 a night.
Crapo’s leadership PAC told the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday that it had reimbursed a company owned by Vicki Hart, the wife of energy lobbyist and Pruitt donor J. Steven Hart, for three fundraising events held at their Capitol Hill rowhouse.
The reimbursement came after a watchdog group filed a complaint with the FEC last week alleging that Crapo’s fundraising events constituted illegal in-kind contributions to his campaign by the LLC that technically owns the house. Corporations are legally barred from contributing to federal political campaigns.
Crapo’s campaign said it reimbursed the company $300 for use of the house for three events, after Vicki Hart informed them that she charges $100 for rental of the event space. Though fundraisers are inherently different than room rentals, the bill for Crapo raises additional questions about the one for Pruitt. The EPA administrator has insisted that he was paid market rate for his room—a rate that turns out to be half what the same landlord charged for a fundraising event at the same location.
Pruitt’s time staying in the house, for a few months early in his tenure at the EPA, is one of a number of controversies dogging the administrator as he heads to Capitol Hill today for a pair of congressional budget hearings.
In a 23-page memo provided to some members of Congress ahead of those hearings, and obtained by The Daily Beast on Thursday, Pruitt’s staff pushes back on all of those controversies. Regarding the Harts’ house, they stated that ethics staff had cleared the living arrangement, that the $50 per night he paid was above market rate, and that J. Steven Hart had indeed met with Pruitt while renting him a room, but that Pruitt was acting in his “personal capacity” at the time.
Despite the pushback, the controversy has taken a political toll on Pruitt, who is expected to be grilled on his living arrangements at Thursday’s hearings. It’s also swept up the Harts. J. Steven Hart resigned this week from the lobbying firm where he’d worked for years, Williams & Jensen.