PALM SPRINGS, CALIF. — When likely EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt walks into his first day at the office, “He’ll have 16,000 employees working against him,” Sen. James Lankford told a large gathering of libertarian donors Saturday evening.
“And I expect a flood of lawsuits over everything he does.”
Pruitt, who has been nominated to lead the EPA by President Donald Trump, is the attorney general of Lankford’s state, Oklahoma. He has faced fierce opposition from the environmentalist left.
Lankford, who chairs the Senate Oversight Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care and Entitlements, was joined on stage by Sens. Mike Lee and Pat Toomey. Their panel, moderated by Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips, was during a dinner on day one of Charles and David Koch’s libertarian Seminar Network in Palm Springs, Calif. (RELATED: Mike Lee Is Certain The Senate Will Confirm Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee)
Held twice a year, the seminars are a gathering place for the Seminar Network, a large group of wealthy donors interested in libertarian causes. This weekend’s seminar, held in the temperate desert outside of Los Angeles, will be the first since Trump’s election and inauguration. The network spent hundreds of millions on advertising and advocacy for limited-government politicians — namely, Republicans — running for the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives, but notably stayed out of the presidential primaries and race. The network is co-chaired by Charles Koch Institute President Brian Hooks and Mark Holden, general counsel for Koch Industries. (RELATED: As Trump Presidency Dawns, Kochs Plan To Bring Hundreds Of Millions To Bear On Next Two Years)
Of the three senators, Lankford was the only tepid backer of Trump, saying he would support the nominee and frequently dodging press requests to weigh in on specific incidents. Toomey withheld endorsement of Trump, though didn’t rule it out, and was a frequent critic. On Election Day, he said he was voting for Trump. Lee, who is a close friend of Sen. Ted Cruz and represents Utah’s quieter, more conflict-adverse Mormon Republican electorate, urged Trump to quit in October and declined to endorse him throughout the election. (RELATED: Three Republican Senators Kick Off Koch’s First Massive Donor Conference In Age Of Trump)
Called “A Time to Lead,” the meeting is hosted at the Renaissance Indian Wells Resort and Spa, and is focused on local, grassroots initiatives Americans can take in what Hooks called “the key institutions of society”– “education, community, business and government.” (RELATED: Charles Koch Calls For Action: ‘We Might Not Have An Opportunity Again Like We Have Today’)
There are around 550 individuals included in the “principals” network meeting, which requires at least $100,000 donation to the network. In addition to these invited people, there are approximately 150 staff and speakers, Seminar Network spokesman James Davis told reporters. There is also a larger press presence than any previous conference has allowed.
Editor’s Note: Christopher Bedford was a fellow at the Charles Koch Institute in 2010.