A powerful Washington lobbyist, whose wife gave Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt a favorable room rate at her Capitol Hill condo, lobbied the agency in 2017 for two previously undisclosed clients, according to new reports.
J. Steven Hart, who formerly served as the chairman of law and lobbying firm Williams & Jensen, lobbied the EPA for Coca-Cola and the Financial Oversight and Management Control Board of Puerto Rico, as well as Smithfield Foods, The Hill reported Friday. The new disclosures come on top of other lobbying work, previously reported, done by Hart and his firm on behalf of clients with matters before the EPA.
At the time of lobbying the EPA for Coca-Cola, Pruitt was renting a Capitol Hill apartment owned by health care lobbyist Vicki Hart, Steven Hart’s wife, for just $50 a day. Pruitt only paid for nights he was in town, saving him more than $2,000 over the six months he rented the condo, compared to someone paying for every night of each month.
When news broke earlier this year of Pruitt’s ties to the lobbyist couple, Steven Hart emphasized he hadn’t engaged in any advocacy work on behalf of clients at the EPA. “I do not lobby the EPA. I have had no lobbying contact with the EPA in 2017 or 2018,” Hart told E&E News in March.
Pruitt also told Fox News in April that Hart had no clients with business before the EPA.
The new disclosures, though, contradict the claims by Hart, who resigned from Williams & Jensen in April upon news of the apartment rental to Pruitt. Hart’s departure from the law firm came only hours before lobbying disclosures showed that he had contacted the the EPA on behalf of Smithfield Foods, which has been a client of Williams & Jensen since 2001, according to The Hill.
Hart’s previously undisclosed lobbying was made public when Williams & Jensen filed an amended disclosure form last Friday that showed he lobbied for Coca-Cola, the Puerto Rico financial control board, and Smithfield Foods before the EPA.
The newly disclosed lobbying records represent yet another example of the cozy relationship between Pruitt and the industries and entities that engage in activities regulated by the EPA.
In a March 2017 email to Sydney Hupp, Pruitt’s former scheduler at the EPA, Hart informed the EPA that his client, Coca Cola, has “enormous expertise in clean water development since you cannot bottle Coke with dirty water.”
Hart wanted to find out if Pruitt would be able to meet with Muhtar Kent, chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola, at a State Department conference on water stewardship on March 22, 2017. Kent attended the conference to accept the 2017 Water Leader Award from the U.S. Water Partnership on behalf of Coca-Cola.
Hart also tried to arrange a meeting between Pruitt and another Coke executive, Jon Radtke, the chief water steward for Coke in North America, who “works with EPA on many fronts like recycling, watershed projects etc.”
— Eric Lipton (@EricLiptonNYT) June 2, 2018
The meeting between Pruitt and the soda executives never happened. But Hart’s attempt to arrange the meeting would fall under the definition of lobbying and would require federal disclosure, CBS News reported.
In another new disclosure, Hart also reportedly lobbied the EPA on behalf of the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico about water quality and infrastructure in Puerto Rico. The oversight board is called “La Junta” by many Puerto Ricans as a result of the island’s being put in the hands of this unelected board.
Prior to resigning from his firm, Hart was a go-to favorite for both lawmakers and regulators. Under his leadership, his lobbying firm sought to influence policymakers on issues that impact the energy and chemicals industries, as well as almost every other major industry sector. Given its proximity to the U.S. Capitol, Republican politicians have used Hart’s apartment for fundraising events.
The EPA did not immediately respond to ThinkProgress’ request for comment regarding the new disclosures.