Jeb Bush has cast his presidential campaign as a crusade against the power of lobbyists over public policymaking. But he appointed one those lobbyists’ closest allies Tuesday to help direct his campaign’s policy agenda.
Bush’s campaign announced Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt will lead the “Restoring Federalism Task Force,” which will produce policies aimed at shifting power from the federal government to the states. In 2014, Pruitt was the focus of a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times investigation detailing the cozy relationships between state attorneys general and energy firms.
The Times found Pruitt sent letters to the Obama administration that had been written almost exclusively by energy lobbyists. Pruitt has also filed lawsuits to block federal agencies from issuing rules that might affect the oil and gas industry’s bottom line while energy executives have bankrolled groups supporting Pruitt and his Republican counterparts in other states.
The appointment of Pruitt is not the first time Bush’s anti-lobbyist rhetoric has contrasted with his actions. In July, he held an event in Florida deriding lobbyists, even though the event was organized by a Florida corporate lobbying group that has donated money to the super PAC supporting his campaign. Bush has also asserted that after leaving the Florida governorship, he did not seek to influence government decisions on behalf of clients -- but an International Business Times review of government records revealed he pressed Florida officials on behalf of the private firms with which he was working after leaving Tallahassee. Other emails reviewed by IBT showed Bush as governor repeatedly consulted with corporate lobbyists about his policy agenda.
Pruitt is not a surprising choice given Bush's own ties to the energy industry. Oil and gas executives and organizations have contributed more than $9 million to the super PAC backing Bush’s campaign -- making the industry the second largest donor collectively to the group. During Bush’s time in the private sector, after completing his second term as governor of Florida, he and his family invested in two companies involved in fracking.
Bush’s campaign Tuesday detailed his energy platform, which includes removing federal regulations on fracking and carbon emissions, repealing renewable fuel standards and allowing increased drilling. While Bush is calling for the repeal of tax breaks used by oil and gas companies, to create a “level playing field for all energy sources,” his proposals would likely be a boon to the industry.