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No Letup in Speculation of Scott Pruitt’s Political Future

No matter what Scott Pruitt does or says these days, political observers view him as an EPA chief who really wants another political office, and is someone intent on using the EPA to fulfill his plans.

We’ve reported in recent weeks how the national press described him as a member of the Trump administration who had other political aspirations in mind. Oklahoma media joined the rush and now POLITICO’s Morning Energy Report raises the question whether Pruitt, the former Oklahoma Attorney General has a campaign in waiting.

Here’s how Morning Energy portrayed Pruitt.

 

By Anthony Adragna | 08/18/2017 10:00 AM EDT

With help from Emily Holden

IS SCOTT PRUITT PLAYING THE LONG GAME? Ostensibly to gather feedback on rolling back an Obama-era water rule, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s 10-state trek this summer – jam-packed with local media hits – is raising eyebrows around the Beltway that the former Oklahoma attorney general is laying the groundwork for a political campaign once he leaves President Donald Trump’s Cabinet, Pro’s Emily Holden reports. “Whatever he may claim to be, he is a politician with campaign experience,” one GOP strategist said, noting EPA likely won’t be “his career culmination goal.”

It’s not immediately clear what office Pruitt, 49, could seek but speculation has focused on the Senate seat held by Jim Inhofe – should the 82-year old fifth-term senator decide to retire or not seek reelection in 2020. If he does seek elected office, Pruitt could be the first EPA chief to make that jump. His inner circle is dominated by key personnel with links back to Oklahoma, though state strategists say they haven’t heard of any campaigns on the horizon: “I can tell you that I have not heard anybody in Oklahoma talk about a Senate run for Scott Pruitt,” Oklahoma GOP political strategist Pat McFerron told Emily.

But what’s clear to former Republican EPA chiefs is Pruitt has an entirely different focus than past administrators. Former George W. Bush EPA chief Christine Todd Whitman noted he’s spending more time on television and away from headquarters. “You’ve got plenty on your plate. You really don’t have a lot of time to go and do the kinds of stuff he’s doing,” said Whitman, a former New Jersey governor. EPA declined to comment on Pruitt’s future plans but defended his trips. “Unlike the previous administration which imposed its regulatory regime from Washington, Administrator Pruitt is taking the conversations directly to the states,” said EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox.

History lesson: Former GOP-appointed EPA Administrator Bill Ruckelshaus said Pruitt “clearly has not bought into the mission of EPA,” and is “more interested in reducing the regulatory impact.” Though Pruitt’s often compared to Anne Gorsuch, who Reagan appointed to EPA to ease environmental regulations, Ruckelshaus argued the Oklahoman might be more effective at shrinking the agency’s profile than Gorsuch who didn’t successfully dismantle much. “They weren’t as knowledgeable about the laws … the people they brought in were not very skilled,” he said. “What this administration is doing is bringing in somebody who has been suing the agency for a long time, although never very successfully.” He said Pruitt and his staff, comprised of Hill staffers, are familiar enough with the statute to be “skillful at unraveling the agency’s system.” Ruckelshaus added that other news from the administration is distracting from Pruitt’s rollbacks.