A lengthy and damning new profile of the Environmental Protection Agency administrator in Rolling Stone speculates about the real motivation behind all of Pruitt’s “crimes against nature.” Author Jeff Goodell writes, “It’s likely that Pruitt won’t hang around at the EPA long enough for anyone to count the bodies. His sights are set on higher things: the Oklahoma governor’s race in 2018, or a run for [Senator Jim Inhofe’s] Senate seat in 2020.”
This speculation has been around for awhile, but Goodell makes a compelling case. He lays out Pruitt’s early political life in Oklahoma, in which he lost two elections—for lieutenant governor and for the U.S. House of Representatives. It wasn’t until the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which allowed unlimited political spending by corporations, that Pruitt’s fortunes began to change. He deepened and strengthened his ties to Oklahoma’s fossil fuel interests and Koch Industries, which donated generously to his successful campaign for state attorney general.
These are the same interests Pruitt has been consistently appeasing during his reign as EPA administrator. Pruitt has also been traveling to Oklahoma a lot since becoming administrator. According to a recent report, he “spent 43 out of 92 days from March through May in Oklahoma or traveling to or from the state.” (An EPA spokesperson said these trips were business-related, and asserted that Pruitt “is not running for elected office.”)
As Goodell correctly notes, the position of EPA administrator “has never been a launchpad for political ambition. In fact, no administrator in the 47-year history of the agency has ever gone on to higher office.” But as Pruitt’s unprecedented rollbacks of environmental protections show, he is no ordinary EPA administrator. It would be unwise to underestimate him.