A set of tickets to the sold out Rose Bowl are at the core of a brewing scandal involving the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt. The former Attorney General of Oklahoma, Pruitt received tickets to see the Sooners take on Georgia on January 1 in the national semifinals. Those tickets were sourced by the head of an Oklahoma-based public relations firm “with a large energy practice,” according to coverage by the Washington Post.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) ignited the controversy with a letter last week to Renzi Stone, who is a member of OU’s Board of Regents and head of Saxum, a communications firm with multiple clients in the world which Pruit – as EPA head – now is in charge of regulating. Cummings requested that Stone provide information “regarding your actions in assisting EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in obtaining highly sought-after tickets to attend the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.”
Reportedly, Stone helped facilitate Pruitt’s receiving of tickets at face value from the school’s athletics department not long before the game. According to data from Ticket Club, tickets to the Rose Bowl – which saw Georgia defeat Oklahoma in an OT thriller – went for an average price of $386.44.
Ethics rules cited in Cummings’ letter prohibit government employees from accepting gifts such as tickets, unless they pay ‘market value.’ In the reporting we have seen, the specific location and face value of the tickets Pruitt secured from the OU athletic department’s held back allocation to the game, which saw over 92,000 fans in attendance, has not been reported.
An EPA spokesperson pushed back at the implication that there was anything untoward about the ticket transaction. Jahan Wilcox accused Cummings of “misconstruing the facts.”
“Renzi Stone, a friend of Administrator Pruitt and regent to the University of Oklahoma, simply connected Pruitt to the athletic department,” Wilcox said. “Pruitt purchased the tickets at face value from the OU athletic department. To report otherwise is false.”
For Pruitt, the Rose Bowl aren’t the only tickets that have raised some ethical eyebrows, per the Post:
Days before Pruitt attended the Rose Bowl, he also sat with his son in premium seats near the court at a University of Kentucky basketball game. The New York Times recently reported that Pruitt scored those tickets through a longtime friend, Joseph Craft, a billionaire coal baron who heads Alliance Resource Partners, one of the nation’s largest coal mining firms. The EPA said at the time that Pruitt had paid $130 for each ticket, and the company said Craft had sold them at “market value.”