The watchdog group suing President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is financed in part by billionaire financier George Soros’s affiliated groups.
The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) filed a lawsuit accusing Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt of violating his state’s Open Records Act by failing to release emails the group believes could show the Republican is in cahoots with various energy companies.
CMD, which bills itself as a nonpartisan journalism outfit, counts the Rockefeller Family Foundation and Soros’s Open Society Foundations among its donors. It has also received money from progressive financier, Tides Foundation, which gave the group more than $160,000 in 2011 for research purposes.
CMD’s website identifies numerous big name financial backers without any financial data.
The group intends on forcing Pruitt to respond to nine open-records requests in January 2015 to see nearly 3,000 emails between his office and oil companies. Pruitt’s office has received similar requests from other groups.
“We are doing this because these emails should be released so that people can properly vet his record before the Senate votes to confirm him,” Nick Surgey, CMD’s director of research, told reporters Monday.
CMD also acknowledged on its website accepting donations from the Rockefeller Family Foundation (RFF), which has worked for months backing attorney general-led efforts to investigate Exxon Mobil’s climate research.
RFF’s directors have openly admitted pressing Democratic AGs in New York and Massachusetts to probe the mega oil company. The fund met in secret with environmentalists in 2015 to hash out ways to take down Exxon, The Wall Street Journal reported in April of that year.
The billion dollar trust fund donated $25,000 to InsideClimate News, one of the media outlets principally responsible for kick-starting the anti-Exxon probes, under the explicit understanding that it would be used to target Exxon’s record on climate issues.
CMD received $520,000 of its $864,740 in 2011 from the Schwab Charitable Fund, a funding organization that allows it donors to give anonymously to whatever non-profit group they desire. The progressive media group has chastised fossil fuel companies for allegedly hiding donations it received from groups like the Koch brothers.
Democratic senators used CMD’s record requests to question Pruitt about whether he could fairly regulate an industry for which he is closely related.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, for one, accused the Oklahoma Republican of stonewalling the request for information about his relationships with industry. The Rhode Island Democrat grilled the nominee about his reluctance to fork over information related to CMD’s requests.
“I hope this lawsuit forces Attorney General Pruitt to stop the cover-up and disclose these emails immediately so the American people know what conflicts of interest this nominee has,” Whitehouse, who has a history of erasing evidence of his contacts with environmental groups, said in a press statement.
Whitehouse has also benefited from donations by environmental groups in the past. He raked in over $35,000 in campaign contributions from environmental special interest groups over the years.
Pruitt’s office said it had contacted the Center for Media and Democracy last week to inform the group that “release of their request was imminent.”
“The fact that they have now filed suit despite our ongoing communications demonstrates that this is nothing more than political theater,” Lincoln Ferguson, the attorney general’s press secretary said in a statement. “The office of attorney general remains committed to fulfilling both the letter and spirit of the Open Records Act.”
Pruitt has sued the EPA 14 times to weaken or eliminate regulations.
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