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Energy Executives, Secretive Nonprofit Raise Money to Back Pruitt

Energy companies and their executives have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into political action committees run by or supporting President-elect Donald Trump's nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. And now Pruitt is getting extra help from a new nonprofit that doesn't have to disclose its donors.

Pruitt has become a favorite of conservatives as well as oil and coal companies since he has helped lead the legal fight against President Barack Obama's environmental and climate change agenda — policies the White House's opponents see as an overreach of federal power and a threat to fossil fuels.

The new group, Protecting America Now, warns that Pruitt’s confirmation “is not a certainty” and says that millions of dollars are needed for advertising and social media campaigns to counter anti-Pruitt campaigning from "anti-business, environmental extremists,” according to a flier obtained by POLITICO.

The flier assures donors that PAN’s 501(c)(4) status means individual and corporate donors can remain anonymous, and asks for contributions ranging from $25,000 to $500,000. Nonprofits registered as 501(c)(4)’s are not supposed to spend more than half their money on political activities.

It is unclear precisely who is behind the campaign, but PAN's activities come on the heels of separate efforts by oil, coal and other energy interests to funnel money into pro-Pruitt PACs in recent years. Legally, one of those PACs could continue to raise money even after Pruitt joins Trump's Cabinet.

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