Gage Skidmore / Flickr Scott Pruitt...
Gage Skidmore / Flickr

The utter insanity of what’s going on at the Environmental Protection Agency is hard to capture. Forget the fact that the agency that’s supposed to protect the environment is engaged in jetting around the world to actively campaign for fossil fuels. Forget that the whole thing is run by a climate change-denier whose first actions on taking office included burying access to some of the most vital information on climate. Forget that scientists have been banned from the agency’s science advisory boards in favor of industry lobbyists.

All that stuff is nuts, sure. But it’s not as nuts as the other things Scott Pruitt has been up to. 

Which includes hiring a Republican opposition research firm, on a no-bid contract, at taxpayer expense, to track news about the EPA and dig up dirt on those who dare oppose Pruitt. A group run by these guys …

 Matt Rhoades, who… established America Rising, an ostensibly independent political action committee that works closely with the Republican National Committee and Republican candidates to mine damning information on opponents. …

former RNC research director Joe Pounder, who’s been described as “a master of opposition research …

Colin Reed, an oppo-research guru billed as “among the leaders of the war on [Sen. Elizabeth] Warren.”

That’s in addition to Pruitt’s other actions that include:

The only good news out of enough insanity to fill a dozen Arkhams? When word leaked about the “emergency” no-bid contract awarded to the Republican opposition research team, that team was embarrassed enough to have a few flashlights directed under their rock that they withdrew from the contract, claiming that all they offered was a “clipping service.”

There’s probably a similar term for the related site the EPA hired earlier in the year to spread good news stories about Pruitt.

On a handful of occasions, the EPA has promoted positive coverage of Pruitt’s actions from the news-aggregation website Need To Know Network. Earlier this year, the website wrote a series of stories designed to shed positive light on the controversial administrator. In one story, the site describes Pruitt as “busy racking up accomplishments that both protect Americans and save millions in taxpayer dollars.” Another congratulated Pruitt for moving ahead with plans to open Alaska’s Bristol Bay to mining, writing it was “a move that will prove to be a massive job creator for President Trump and Pruitt.”

In any other administration, just one of Pruitt’s eye-rolling actions would be enough to generate a scandal. But under the substantial cover provided by Trump’s daily distractions, Pruitt is turning the EPA into an organization that actively works to destroy what it’s meant to protect. More than that, he’s building up a personal fiefdom complete with its own loyal troops and intelligence services, all while taking extraordinary actions to hide his activities from the public.

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