Scott Pruitt Used His Government Position To Try To Score His Wife A Chick-fil-A Franchise
Emails obtained by the Sierra Club under the Freedom of Information Act show that early in his tenure as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt had a political aid, Sydney Hupp, contact the head of fast-food chain Chick-fil-A about a "business opportunity" — namely, obtaining a franchise for Pruitt's wife, Marlyn.
A call between Pruitt and Dan Cathy was arranged, then canceled, and Pruitt later spoke with Chick-fil-A's legal department, the Washington Post reports.
Eventually, Marlyn Pruitt started, but didn't complete, a franchise application for one of the chicken restaurants. A Chick-fil-A spokesman told the Post that "Mrs. Pruitt is not and has never been a Chick-fil-A franchisee.”
The Sierra Club sharply criticized Pruitt for using a public employee to make a private inquiry. "Pruitt’s apparent relationship with Cathy ... is yet another attempt by Pruitt to violate federal law by enriching himself through his official position," the organization said in a statement.
Chick-fil-A receives more than 20,000 inquires about opening franchises every year, Business Insider reports, and ultimately picks only 75 to 80 franchisees annually. There are about 2,200 Chick-fil-A locations in total, most of which are franchised. The company reported sales of $9B in 2017. QSR magazine reported that the chain generated more revenue per restaurant than any other U.S. fast-food chain in 2016.
Pruitt was not a complete stranger to Cathy at the time of the request. A separate email indicated the two “had an opportunity to visit during the Administrator's tenure in Oklahoma.”
Currently, Pruitt is under 12 investigations for his management practices at the EPA, including his travel expenses, the installation of a soundproof phone booth at his office and a condo rental from the wife of a lobbyist with business before the agency.