The shared values of Scott Pruitt and Adam Laxalt

Scott Pruitt and Adam Laxalt
Scott Pruitt (photo: Wikimedia) and Adam Laxalt (photo: Laxalt campaign ad).

“I can think of no one better to lead this agency,” Adam Laxalt wrote when Scott Pruitt was nominated to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

In a January 2017 guest column published in the Las Vegas Review-Journal — like Laxalt, a Sheldon Adelson property — Nevada’s attorney general gushed about the “highly-qualified (sic) men and women” Donald Trump had appointed to his administration. But “my colleague,” then Oklahoma Attorney General Pruitt, was the only Trump appointee Laxalt mentioned by name. The column, you see, was all about Pruitt, and how wonderful life would be once Pruitt rid the EPA of its “climate change agenda.”

Not only could Pruitt be relied upon to react with knee-jerk regularity to subvert the agency’s efforts to fulfill its mission and protect the environment — or as Laxalt and Pruitt see that mission, “federal overreach.” Pruitt, Laxalt wrote, “is committed to following the rule of law.” (For an analysis of Laxalt’s own commitment to following the rule of law, see the Dennis Myers cover story this week in the Reno News & Review).

Laxalt, in praise of Pruitt, also blasted “critics” who “wrongly assert that Mr. Pruitt is in the pocket of ‘Big Oil'” and dismissed such concerns as “a mere scare tactic” launched by “fringe environmental groups.”

As it happens, scare tactics would seem redundant where Pruitt is concerned. If many of the scandals that have unfolded that prompted Pruitt’s resignation Thursday are any indication, Pruitt is already perpetually scared. Thousands of dollars on biometric locks, tens of thousands of dollars on first-class flights, purportedly because he was frightened by the rabble in coach, a security detail that was three-times larger than his predecessor’s, demanding bullet-proof seat covers — Pruitt evidently is a man who lives in fear.

But he is also a man who evidently likes to live in style, or at least a type of style as understood by a rare Trump appointee who is not unusually wealthy. Using his security detail to fetch his lotion, insisting on sirens and flashing lights when being transported to dinner,  the $43,000 cone of silence he had installed in his office, $1,500 in pens, a comparable amount on “tactical pants,” and multiple other instances of taxpayer-funded extravagance and indulgence — the right is chock full of grifters and con artists. Pruitt however, is something more: He’s a profoundly weird dude.

He’s also undeniably venal. Securing dirt-cheap rent from an energy lobbyist, using his office to attempt to secure a lucrative (who knew?) Chick-Fil-A franchise for his wife, and the countless instances of giving industry whatever it wants in exchange for favors, a practice that attracted so much unwanted attention that Pruitt started keeping secret calendars so the public – you – wouldn’t know when he was meeting with executives of industries that Pruitt’s agency was supposed to regulate.

Not that there was ever any chance of Pruitt regulating industry. As Laxalt put it in his homage to the EPA nominee, “As head of the EPA, he will be ready and willing to ensure that the federal bureaucracy stays within its lawful mission and protects our freedoms from federal overreach.”

When people like Laxalt and Pruitt use terms like “our freedoms” they don’t mean your and your family’s and your community’s freedom to live in a world with clean air and safe water. They mean industry’s freedom to make as much money as it possibly can for its richest owners and shareholders without the pesky burdens of, as Laxalt put it, “oppressive regulations that threaten our freedom and livelihood.”

The EPA was captured by industry the moment Pruitt strutted into the building like a flea-market Louis XIV. His multiple scandals were tawdry – even comical at times. His — and, for that matter, Laxalt’s — contempt for the mission of the agency Pruitt headed, by contrast, is treachery against public health and safety, and an assault on democracy.

Pruitt “will not use the EPA to impose his ideological views about environmental regulation,” Laxalt asserted while championing Pruitt’s nomination. The assertion is a telling assessment of both Pruitt and Laxalt. Pruitt was selected precisely because of his “ideological views.” That ideology is deeply distrustful of the majority and despises the idea that collective public action should influence policy in a way that might displease the “job creators.” It is a hardened ideology, steeped in decades of industry-funded anti-government propaganda. And Laxalt is soaking in it.

Laxalt was perhaps being deliberately disingenuous when he claimed that Pruitt would not be driven by ideology. Alternatively, Pruitt and Laxalt’s shared worldview is so second-nature to Laxalt, so unquestionably accepted, that Laxalt doesn’t even see it; that is, he is blinded by his own ideology. In any case, make no mistake — if he wins in November, Laxalt will be the most ideological governor Nevada has ever had.

Pruitt’s last gasp at the EPA was reportedly an effort to convince his idol and north star, Donald Trump, to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions and, via statutory chicanery, name Pruitt attorney general. That deed done, Pruitt could then do what the recused Sessions can’t: fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and anyone else with the gall to presume that mere laws should apply to the most corrupt president in the nation’s history.

If elected governor, Laxalt may not triple his security detail, install biometric locks on the doors to his office, order SUVs to activate sirens and flashing lights while driving him to get fresh orders from an Adelson henchman at a restaurant, or order the Nevada Highway Patrol to pick up his beauty products at CVS.

But Pruitt’s venality and corruption emulate the standard set by Trump, who has leveraged the presidency to enrich his companies and himself. Of that venality and corruption, Laxalt, like those representing his party in Congress, has muttered not one word. A dishonest, crooked con man in the White House is a small price to pay when one’s beloved ideology is being implemented.

“I have witnessed first-hand his deep understanding of constitutional law,” Laxalt wrote about Pruitt.

Then he encouraged the Senate to confirm Pruitt anyway.

Hugh Jackson
Editor | Hugh Jackson has been writing about Nevada policy and politics for more than 20 years. He was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and wrote the then-groundbreaking Las Vegas Gleaner, which among other things was the only independent political blog from Nevada that was credentialed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He spent a few years as a senior energy and environmental policy analyst for Public Citizen, and has occasionally worked as a consultant on mining, taxation, education and other issues for Nevada labor and public interest organizations. His freelance work has been published in outlets ranging from the Guardian to Desert Companion to In These Times to the Oil & Gas Journal. For several years he also taught U.S. History courses at UNLV. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and then assistant managing editor at the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming’s largest newspaper.

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