In an abrupt shift, two federal political action committees associated with U.S. EPA nominee Scott Pruitt will be shut down before the Oklahoma attorney general faces senators for a confirmation hearing later this month.
The announcement followed publication of an E&E News story Friday that reported a super PAC associated with Pruitt, Liberty 2.0, could continue soliciting donations even if the Sooner State politician is confirmed as EPA administrator. A second PAC, Oklahoma Strong Leadership, will also be shut down.
"The PACs missions are no longer relevant and we don't want them to be a distraction during the confirmation hearings," Liberty 2.0 counsel Charles Spies told E&E News in an email today.
News of the closure was first reported by The Oklahoman, based in Oklahoma City.
Spies told E&E News on Thursday that the committee's leadership was in talks over Liberty 2.0's future, but no decisions had been made.
The move to close the super PAC comes in advance of what is expected to be a contentious confirmation hearing. Senate Democrats and environmentalists have questioned Pruitt's financial ties to energy companies, as President-elect Donald Trump's nominees face a rising tide of ethical questions heading into the confirmation process.
A statement from the Sierra Club offered a preview of the coming battle over the issue.
"The fact that Scott Pruitt intends to take big cash from the very same big polluters he is supposed to be monitoring as EPA administrator is unprecedented and a clear danger to the health of our families," the environmental group said in a statement released in response to the E&E story.
Of the $420,248 raised by Liberty 2.0 since its founding in 2015, nearly half came from energy interests, according to an E&E review of Federal Election Commission filings.
Super PACs, which can raise unlimited funds from corporations, unions and individuals, grew out of the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling. They maintain legal distance from candidates, though in reality the distinction is often blurry. Super PACs frequently hire advisers close to a candidate and familiar with his or her wishes.
Spies said Liberty 2.0 would be shut down this month. A termination filing had not been posted to the FEC website as of the close of business today.
Discussions over what will be done with the $146,697 remaining in Liberty 2.0's account are ongoing, he said.