Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt will not attend an Oklahoma Republican Party fundraising event over concerns the appearance would run afoul of a federal law.
Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general, had been slated to keynote the annual Oklahoma Republican Party Gala. The organizers billed the appearance as "a once in a lifetime event" to hear from the current EPA chief.
On Tuesday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said the language in the invitation amounted to "a brand of political promotion prohibited by the Hatch Act." On Tuesday, he filed a complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel calling for the office to investigate whether Pruitt had violated the law.
The Hatch Act prohibits executive branch employees from leveraging their authority or influence to affect elections, including by allowing their "official title to be used in connection with fundraising activities."
OKGOP Gala event invitation
Pruitt told Fox News Radio the EPA's ethics office had approved his participation at the event. He said the agency decided he should pull out after the event organizers released an invitation that contained problematic language, which played up his federal role.
"What happened was the folks that invited me sent out an invitation, post that approval, that didn't comply with federal law and federal ethics law, so we're not going to be able to attend because of the invitation," Pruitt explained.
The Oklahoma Republican Party did not immediately return a request for comment.
On Thursday, Whitehouse indicated he would not drop his calls for an investigation.
"This is the least he can do. But the Office of Special Counsel still must do a thorough investigation to determine whether Administrator Pruitt ran afoul of the Hatch Act," he said in a statement.
Pruitt has become one of the most closely watched and highly divisive bureaucrats appointed by President Donald Trump.