Koch Industries spent $3.1 million in the first three months of the Trump administration, largely to secure the confirmation of Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
As of July 2018, more than sixteen federal investigations were underway into Pruitt’s mismanagement and corruption.
But Pruitt was just the first in a long line of pro-industry, incompetent and destructive agency chiefs put in place by the Trump administration in its effort to dismantle the protective edifice of federal government.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has been the subject of eighteen separate federal investigations and has been fired.
Now Pruitt and Zinke, having been ousted from public office, are making a comeback.
Pruitt is running for US Senate in Oklahoma.
And last week, Zinke won the Republican primary for Congress in Montana’s first congressional district.
“While many progressives rightly fear that red and purple states will send more Christian nationalists and Big Lie fanatics to Congress this year, they should also worry that these states will rekindle the fortunes of self-defeating wrecking balls. enlargers like Pruitt and Zinke,” Thomas McGarity, a law professor at the University of Texas, wrote recently in a Nation magazine article titled Two of the biggest crooks of the Trump era are plotting a comeback. “Pruitt and Zinke were members of the wrecking crew that President Donald Trump assembled in January 2017 to roll back public health and environmental protections inside the executive branch. Pruitt served as the first administrator of the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency, and Zinke served as its first Interior Secretary.
“Both men were responsible for protecting public health and the environment. Yet both have shied away from their legal obligations in the Trump administration’s determined pursuit of “energy dominance.” And both had a strong sense of entitlement to spend taxpayer dollars on creature comforts, which quickly led to their downfall.
McGarity is the author of the new book Demolition Agenda: How Trump tried to dismantle the US government and what Biden must do to save it (New Press, 2022).
What is your analysis of the state of business regulation today compared to the early days of OSHA and EPA and major regulators?
“It’s a lot lower,” McGarity said Corporate crime reporter in an interview last month. “I published a book a few years ago called freedom to harm. In this book, I have described four assaults on regulation.
“The first one came during the Ronald Reagan years. It kind of fell through because they had a number of scandals with Anne Gorsuch and James Watt. And Bill Ruckelshaus came along and tried to get things done.
“But then we had the Clinton administration and Congress Gingrich. It was a serious threat to the administrative state. They were going after basic environmental laws, OSHA and regulations. But they failed.
“There was a bill that was supposed to be an omnibus bill to slow down regulatory agencies, but it failed by a vote. Clinton triangulated and significantly slowed down regulation.
“The third assault came with the George W. Bush administration. We have seen a total slowdown. No significant new regulations and many rollbacks of existing regulations. »
“The fourth assault was quite brief. It came with the 2010 election and the Tea Party and the leadership change in Congress. This slowed down the Obama administration. But when he won re-election in 2012, Obama realized he could never get anything out of Congress. But he accomplished a lot administratively.
“Then we had the fifth assault, which I write about in The Demolition Agenda. This was started by the Trump administration. And there we saw an attempt to roll back almost everything the Obama administration has done. They have sometimes failed in court.
Trump was elected as an outsider who would drain the swamp, clean the swamp. Ordinary people thought – well, this is a swamp. And you have documented the influence of business on the regulatory process in all jurisdictions.
Most people know that corruption is rampant inside the device. And they wanted to elect someone who would at least say: empty the swamp.
“People from all political walks of life agreed. And this populist revolution could have gone either way. People were really pissed that these Wall Street banks were being bailed out and ordinary people were struggling to pay their mortgages, they didn’t get a bailout. It could have gone either way.
“Unfortunately, Obama brought in people like Larry Summers, the same people who, under the Clinton administration, deregulated the banking industry. And Obama brought them in to try to fix the problem. The right, through his think tanks and ground troops, was able to refocus this populist anger away from the banks and various businesses that were making life miserable for ordinary people and redirected the anger back to the government.
The Trump machine effectively portrayed Hillary as a tool of Wall Street. And she was lecturing at Goldman Sachs for $650,000.
“Yes. And we’re talking about the same people. We’re talking about Larry Summers as an adviser to Hillary. And a lot of the same people who were advising Bill Clinton to repeal Glass Steagall. Instead of focusing on health care, Obama should have gone after Wall Street directly.
But they were married on Wall Street. They weren’t going to do that.
“There is this problem.”
Demolition Agenda features Scott Pruitt and Ryan Zinke, two returning Trump appointees.
“Pruitt was tasked with tearing down the EPA. He has made a good start in this work. Zinke was tasked with tearing down the Home Office. He also got off to a good start in that job before they were both totally immersed in the scandal.
“Pruitt is from Oklahoma. He was Oklahoma’s attorney general, where he took pride in eliminating the environmental protection division of the attorney general’s office and suing the EPA as often as he could to protect the industry from environmental pollution. ‘energy. He was sending letters to members of Congress and others, letters that were actually written by energy companies.
“Pruitt was an ideal choice if you wanted to eliminate the EPA. Turns out he had no use for the officials. Civil servants are heroes in my book. And the other heroes are the environmental and public interest groups that fought these efforts in court to tear down federal protections. Civil servants tried to do their jobs and follow their statutory mandates.
“But Pruitt and Zinke were trying to circumvent their officials. They were not interested in their expertise.
“The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was created at the time quite recently to protect consumers from payday lenders and banks using abusive tactics. But then Richard Cordray, the first head of the CFPB left, and Trump appointed Mick Melvaney as his head. And eventually, the agency agreed with its challengers that the agency was structured unconstitutionally. Mulvaney said – we should allow the president to fire the head of the CFPB. The Supreme Court agreed.
“It was ironic because it allowed Biden to fire Kathleen Kraninger, who succeeded Mulvaney, and replace her with his own person.”
“But back to Pruitt and Zinke. They both left office under clouds of corruption. And now they’re running for Congress. Zinke won his primary this week. And Pruitt’s primary is later this month.
“They are like Trump. Scandals make them more attractive. They thumb their noses at propriety. This is something that mystifies me.
[For the complete Interview with Thomas McGarity, see page 36 Corporate Crime Reporter 26(11), June 27, 2022, print edition only.]