This post has been updated.
The lobbyist whose wife rented Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt a room in a Capitol Hill condo for $50 a night helped arrange a July 11 meeting at the agency related to restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, according to records and an EPA official.
Dennis Treacy, a former Smithfield Foods executive vice president who now sits on the board of the Smithfield Foundation, first reached out to an official in EPA’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations last May to arrange the session as part of his role as the Chesapeake Bay Commission’s citizen representative.
Subsequently, Williams & Jensen Chairman J. Steven Hart — whose wife, Vicki, was then renting a room to Pruitt — called the administrator’s aides to encourage them to take the meeting, according to an agency official who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation.
The meeting, as well as a lobbying registration Williams & Jensen filed Friday stating that Hart lobbied EPA during the first quarter of this year on behalf of Smithfield Foods, suggests that Hart’s business ties to EPA were more extensive than he previously has described. In interviews with The Washington Post and other media, Hart has said he did not lobby the agency in either 2017 or 2018.
The lobbying disclosure form states that Hart lobbied on Smithfield’s behalf on “Issues relating to support for EPA Chesapeake Bay Programs.” A statement by the firm noted that “an independent review of the firm’s lobbying activity in advance of the quarterly filing deadline concluded that Mr. Hart had lobbying contact with the Environmental Protection Agency in the first quarter of 2018.”
Both Hart and Smithfield Foods issued statements Friday saying the meeting was not connected to official firm business. Politico first reported the new lobbying registration and the July 11 meeting.
According to emails obtained by The Post, Hart told Pruitt’s chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, that he would accompany Treacy to that meeting.
“Ryan — Dennis has [asked] me to join him tomorrow,” Hart wrote on July 10. “He is a good guy and can be trusted. He is coming in as the business rep on the Chesapeake Bay [Commission] — another of your controversies.”
EPA’s Chesapeake Bay program office oversees an extensive cleanup effort, which coordinates activities among the federal government, several Mid-Atlantic states and the District. The Trump administration proposed cutting the program’s funding last year by 93 percent, but it has remained largely intact.
In his initial email to EPA officials, Treacy said that while serving in the Virginia state government, at Smithfield and in groups such as Virginia’s Chamber of Commerce, “I have acquired a focused and unique view of environmental protection. I have seen it from all sides.”
Hart — who informed colleagues Friday that he was retiring as chairman of his firm due to the negative press surrounding Pruitt’s unusual housing rental arrangement with his wife — said in a statement Saturday that he had “assisted a friend who served on the Chesapeake Bay Commission, and this is inaccurately being tied to Smithfield Foods.” His statement continued, “I was not paid for this assistance and any suggestion that I lobbied for Smithfield Foods is inaccurate.”
The Smithfield Foods statement said the meeting was not undertaken at the company’s request. “The objective, while laudable, was not undertaken at the direction of or on behalf of Smithfield Foods,” it said. “These activities were conducted at the request of a then-former executive and current Smithfield Foundation board member, Dennis Treacy, in his personal capacity.”
Correction: An earlier version of this post misnamed the Chesapeake Bay Commission.