But the EPA Chief’s Spendthrift Ways Could Get Him Booted Anyway
If Scott Pruitt is going to be dismissed—by Twitter, no doubt—it’d be a shame to lose him because he insists on draping himself in personal luxury.
It would be so much more satisfying if President Trump, or even the Republican congressional leadership, declared that Pruitt had been trying to destroy the country by eliminating too many environmental rules.
But, we’ll take what we can.
Pruitt is under fire for renting a deluxe apartment space from a woman whose lobbying firm has appeared before him in a case, the latest in a series of serious ethical violations.
The Washington Post added that Millan Hupp, 26, a top aide at The Environmental Protection Agency, who recently received a 33% raise from Pruitt despite a lack of approval from the White House, helped shop for housing options for him and his wife last year, according to several sources. Hupp, Pruitt’s director of scheduling and advance, contacted a local real estate firm last summer and went shopping for apartments.
ABC News was the first to report that Pruitt received a terrific deal on a rental property less than a block from the Capitol building for the first six months he lived in DC in 2017. The property belongs in part to Vicki Hart, the wife of a high-profile lobbyist, J. Steven Hart, who also contributed to Pruitt’s political campaigns and has a liquefied natural gas producer as his client. Vicki Hart is a health-care lobbyist. Pruitt paid just $50 a night, and only for the nights he was there, paying $6,100 for six months. His daughter McKenna Pruitt, who was a White House intern at the time, lived there too. In March 2017, the EPA approved a natural gas pipeline extension for a company represented by Hart’s firm, Williams & Jensen, while Pruitt was living in his wife’s property.
Previously, Pruitt has faced criticism for private air charters—even considering purchase or lease of a private jet, and for making other arrangements for his personal comfort. in December, for example, Pruitt jetted off to Morocco to pitch “the potential benefit of liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports on Morocco’s economy,” flying in first class with his head of security and another staffer. Between military, charter, and first-class flights, Pruitt spent more than $168,000 on air travel in his first year in office, even when internal emails showed cheaper options were available.
Remember now, this is the same Pruitt whose name keeps arising as a possible replacement for Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions.
When similar situations have befallen other cabinet members, like Tom Price and David Shulkin, the president has used the emergence of bad publicity about his administration to fire them. Of course, Pruitt has been among the most loyal of the yes-man Cabinet secretaries and the one who knew exactly what to do to decry Climate Change, withdraw from the Paris Accords, and generally neuter the EPA.
According to Vox, Pruitt has displayed some odd paranoia about his security. Shortly after starting his new job, he spent $3,000 to sweep his office for surveillance bugs. He spent $2,000 to install biometric locks with fingerprint readers. He spent more than $42,000 to build a private phone booth in his office. He hides his schedule from the public. His own employees need an escort to see him and aren’t allowed to take notes at meetings. He has surrounded himself with an EPA-paid security detail that has accompanied him on trips to Disneyland and the Rose Bowl. CNN calculated that Pruitt’s security is costing taxpayers $2 million per year, not including travel, training, and equipment.
Multiple senior administration officials confirmed that the president and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly had called Pruitt earlier this week, reportedly telling him to stand tall and know that they backed him.
Meanwhile, the real reason Pruitt should be dismissed is for his reign at the EPA. From the outset, he was the fox in the henhouse. As Oklahoma Attorney General, Pruitt had sued the EPA, and it took him almost no time to start rolling back Obama-era regulations on clean air and water. He has stopped multiple enforcement actions, preferring to include any offending industries in deciding on any possible penalties.
Pruitt denies there is such a thing as climate change, and has eliminated both mention of climate change and scientists who research climate. He has replaced scientists on EPA boards with industry representatives. He is the force behind rolling back car emissions and fuel standards. If there were an oath to protect the environment, he would have been guilty of as many violations as days in office.
Sure, dump Pruitt. But if the White House dismisses him for ethics abuses, they should go after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson and others. And how about the president himself, who tramples ethics codes for breakfast.
What they should be doing is firing Pruitt because he is damaging our environment. A few years ago, we were in Bangkok, where there are no environmental regulations; people there walk around with face masks to breathe the polluted air.
Let’s spend on one last trip and send Pruitt there.