scott pruitt
Credit: The White House/flickr

I can’t decide if I’m more offended that Environmental Protection Agency director Scott Pruitt is so corrupt or that he’s so bad at being corrupt.

Three months after Scott Pruitt was sworn in as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, his executive scheduler emailed Dan Cathy, chairman and president of the fast food company Chick-fil-A, with an unusual request: Would Cathy meet with Pruitt to discuss “a potential business opportunity”?

A call was arranged, then canceled, and Pruitt eventually spoke with someone from the company’s legal department. Only then did he reveal the “opportunity” on his mind was a job for his wife, Marlyn.

“The subject of that phone call was an expression of interest in his wife becoming a Chick-fil-A franchisee,” company representative Carrie Kurlander told The Washington Post via email.

Marlyn Pruitt never opened a restaurant. “Administrator Pruitt’s wife started, but did not complete, the Chick-fil-A franchisee application,” Kurlander said. But the revelation that Pruitt used his official position and EPA staff to try to line up work for his wife appears to open a new chapter in the ongoing saga of his questionable spending and management decisions, which so far have spawned a dozen federal probes.

To begin with, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to help your wife own a restaurant franchise. Normally, that’s a relatively simple process if you have the money. You fill out an application. Chick-fil-A is not Harvard University. They will accept you if you have the dough and a decent business plan. But, I suppose it can’t hurt to throw your influence around a bit if you have some. Making the EPA director happy probably isn’t either here or there to the people who run Chick-fil-A but it can’t possibly hurt. All Pruitt had to do is to make this call himself on his own time. Most likely, they would have told him where to download the application and maybe offered some tips for getting approved, much like they would for anyone else making that call. But, who knows, maybe he could have greased the skids a little bit. That’s how things often work, and it’s not a big problem.

Instead, Pruitt uses his staff to make the call and thereby crosses a bunch of ethical lines. It’s such a lazy form of corruption.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at