EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been swamped by scandal, from taking first-class flights at taxpayer expense to living in a lobbyist’s condo in D.C.
His long list of ethical transgressions, plus 101 unanswered questions about his tenure [PDF], signal Pruitt’s disregard for ethical standards and his close alliance with industries he is responsible for overseeing.
A rundown of his ongoing scandals
Sweetheart condo deal – Pruitt received a below-market-value housing arrangement from the wife of a prominent energy lobbyist whose clients stood to potentially gain from actions taken by the administrator.
First-class flights and lavish travel – It was revealed that Pruitt often flew first class or charter and military planes at very high cost to taxpayers. Pruitt claimed that harsh public comments required him to fly first class. The EPA Inspector General is investigating. It has since been revealed that Pruitt was willing to fly coach when taxpayers weren’t footing the bill.
Pruitt also received help from a lobbyist in planning a $100,000 trip to Morocco. That lobbyist then received a $40,000-a-month contract to promote Moroccan government interests. Another trip to Rome included hardly any official business and instead was packed with personal time.
Secret phone booth – Pruitt had a secure communications facility installed next to his office for $43,000, despite the fact that EPA already has a secure communications facility on another floor. The EPA Inspector General and the Office of Management and Budget are investigating.
Unauthorized pay raises – EPA awarded two close Pruitt associates exorbitant pay raises despite orders from the White House directing them to not. Pruitt initially claimed he was not aware that the raises were being given, but EPA’s Inspector General says he did [PDF].
Secret schedule – In contrast to long-standing EPA practice, begun by President Reagan’s EPA chief, William Ruckelshaus, Pruitt kept his schedule of events secret until forced to release it. The schedule now is only released retrospectively, with major details redacted.
Insider influence – Following a meeting with Fitzgerald Trucks, EPA created a loophole for the company’s high-polluting trucks. Pruitt met with the American Petroleum Institute as EPA attempted to lift limits on methane pollution from oil and gas operations. Pruitt met with Pebble Limited Partnership, a Canadian mining company, then cleared the way for the company’s mining operation, which threatened Alaskan fishing with pollution. The pattern has been repeated in other cases.
Partisan monitoring of employees – A partisan political firm with an EPA contract to do “media monitoring” investigated the personal political leanings of EPA employees suspected of not supporting the Trump administration.
Special waivers – Two senior Pruitt aides were granted special waivers to work for undisclosed outside clients while continuing to work at the agency. One of the men, John Konkus, is known for describing climate change as “the double c-word.” Pruitt lieutenants also sidestep waivers: Pruitt used a loophole in the Safe Drinking Water Act to bring in Nancy Beck from the chemical industry’s lobbying arm to run the Office of Chemical Safety. The loophole made sure that Beck wouldn’t be subject to the Trump administration’s ethics pledge.
Won’t be questioned – At least five officials, four of them senior, were reassigned or demoted, or requested new jobs after they questioned Pruitt’s spending habits and his use of taxpayer money for first-class airfare.
Favors from industry – Pruitt reportedly received courtside seats to a Kentucky basketball game from a billionaire coal baron and was given tickets to the Rose Bowl by an executive at a public relations firm that has a large energy practice.
Misuse of time, influence and taxpayer money – Pruitt aides say helping with their boss’ personal life is all part of the job. That work has included helping him look for housing and coordinating with donors and networks to help land Pruitt’s wife a job at a conservative group. Aides have also been enlisted in an effort to get Pruitt’s wife a Chick-fil-A franchise. Then there is the $1,560 Pruitt spent on 12 customized fountain pens from a Washington, D.C., jewelry store.
Contempt for media – Pruitt has gone so far as to bar certain media members from covering EPA events. He has otherwise attempted to point the finger at the media for his scandals, rather than owning up to his problematic behavior. One conservative columnist said Pruitt put pressure on him to be EPA’s “lickspittle.”
Just plain weird – Pruitt allegedly had aides go search for high-end hand lotion typically offered at Ritz-Carlton hotels. He also used aides to pick up dry cleaning and even search for a used mattress from the Trump International Hotel.
A history of corruption
While in Oklahoma, Pruitt and four associates used a shell company to purchase a home from an Oklahoma lobbyist whose employer regularly had business before state lawmakers. Pruitt was never listed as a part of the shell company and made no mention of the property or shell company in campaign filings.
Pruitt would go on to vote and act favorably in the interest of the lobbyist’s employer, one of many examples of a troubling trend of rewarding entities with which he had past dealings.
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