Pro-Pruitt group took big checks in secret

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A dark-money group supporting Scott Pruitt’s confirmation as EPA administrator raised nearly a half-million dollars from at least one oil company and other donors who did not have to identify themselves, according to documents obtained by POLITICO.

Protecting America Now, a nonprofit incorporated in Delaware the day after President Donald Trump announced Pruitt’s nomination, is only now revealing basic information about itself, two years after the former Oklahoma attorney general was successfully confirmed to lead EPA and seven months after he resigned under a cloud of ethics scandals. POLITICO received the documents through a records request.

Pioneer Natural Resources, a Texas-based oil and gas company, voluntarily disclosed that it contributed $100,000 — the largest single contribution and more than 20 percent of the group’s total haul in 2017 — but the group’s remaining donors remain secret. A few weeks after he was confirmed, Pruitt halted work on a methane rule that Pioneer had identified as a threat to its business, although it’s unclear whether the company’s support influenced that decision.

Critics say the group’s laser-like focus on lobbying for Pruitt’s confirmation after raising money from companies he would regulate illustrates concerns about the lack of disclosure required by such organizations, known as 501(c)(4) groups after the relevant section of the tax code.

“It raises a question of, is this nonprofit a shell that’s using tax-exempt status as a shield for donors to engage in political spending?” said Robert Maguire, research director for the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

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