EPA's Pruitt got tickets to Rose Bowl football game from PR chief: letter

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Embattled U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt obtained tickets to this year's Rose Bowl college football game from a public relations executive, said a letter by the top Democrat on the House of Representatives oversight committee released on Friday.

Renzi Stone, chief executive officer of public relations company Saxum, which is based in Pruitt's home state of Oklahoma and does work for energy companies, provided the tickets to Pruitt, said a letter from Representative Elijah Cummings, a copy of which was seen by Reuters. The letter, addressed to Stone, was first reported by The Washington Post.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said it seemed Cummings "is misconstruing the facts."

"Stone, a friend of Administrator Pruitt and regent to the University of Oklahoma, simply connected Pruitt to the athletic department. Pruitt purchased the tickets at face value from the OU athletic department," Wilcox said.

SEE ALSO: EPA chief Scott Pruitt tapped top aide to secure his wife a job with conservative group

Stone said in a tweet that Pruitt "asked through an aide if he could buy Rose Bowl tix. I made connection to OU ticket office. He bought them. That's it."

Federal ethics rules prohibit government employees from accepting gifts, such as tickets to sports games, unless they pay market value. Gifts include any favor, discount, or entertainment that has monetary value.

Pruitt has been under scrutiny amid reports involving questionable spending on first class plane tickets, use of security detail, connections with lobbyists and industry groups and use of his office for favors.

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Former Director of Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt
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Former Director of Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), speaks to employees of the Agency in Washington, U.S., February 21, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), greets employees of the agency in Washington, U.S., February 21, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Director of Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt is sworn in by Justice Samuel Alito as his wife Marilyn holds a bible during ceremony at the Executive Office in Washington, U.S., February 17, 2017.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), greets employees of the agency in Washington, U.S., February 21, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's pick as head of the Environmental Protectional Agency, meets with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2017.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt testifies before a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, U.S., January 18, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R), U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), meets with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) (L) in her office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. January 4, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's pick as head of the Environmental Protectional Agency, meets with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2017.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Oklahoma Farm Bureau Vice President of Public Policy John R.H. Collison (L) meets with Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) to discuss state water issues at the attorney generals office in Oklahoma City, July 29, 2014.

(REUTERS/Nick Oxford)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt in a meeting at his office in Oklahoma City, July 29, 2014. 

(REUTERS/Nick Oxford)

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He currently faces a dozen investigations by the Office of the Inspector General, Congress and the White House.

In the letter, Cummings asked Stone for documents regarding his actions in providing Pruitt the coveted tickets for the game, in which Oklahoma State played Georgia.

Former Pruitt aide Millan Hupp, who was interviewed by lawmakers on the committee in May, said in the letter that Pruitt got the tickets for himself and his family from Stone. Hupp said Pruitt paid for the tickets but did not know how much.

At least one of Saxum's clients, Plains All American Pipeline, has a petition before the EPA to discharge test water from a pipeline in Corpus Christi, Texas, the letter said.

Stone said in the tweet Saxum does not do "any work for clients at EPA," and that he would respond to Cummings' request for documents.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly praised Pruitt, despite the mounting ethics scandals, for the work he has done to overturn regulations put in place by former President Barack Obama's administration.

Several Republican senators, including John Barrasso, head of the Senate environment committee that has oversight over the EPA, have called for a hearing later this year to look into Pruitt's scandals, but stopped short of calling for him to resign.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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