EPA Chief Scott Pruitt in Hot Water over Mismanagement and Expenses
Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has recently faced serious accusations over his management and spending practices. Since being appointed by President Trump in February of last year, Mr. Pruitt has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on travel, security, and pay raises for his most loyal employees. Members of both political parties have questioned the necessity of these expenses, and have vowed investigations.
The scandal began with a large increase in spending last year, when Mr. Pruitt requested a round the clock security detail to protect him at all times. This addition of a full time security service, which is unprecedented in EPA history, also came at a hefty price tag of almost $3 million.
In addition, to the extreme security detail, Mr. Pruitt also had the EPA spend over $24,000 on a “security booth” which would allow him to have conversations that could not be monitored by surveillance equipment.
In the past weeks, numerous ethics groups and predominantly Democratic lawmakers have taken notice of Mr. Pruitt’s behavior. On Wednesday, a threat assessment done by an EPA administrator found that the threats against the head of the agency were not credible enough to warrant such extravagant spending measures.
The report itself called the EPA expenses, “exorbitant taxpayer spending” that were “unsubstantiated” compared to the level of danger Mr. Pruitt was actually in. In addition, the report, as well as numerous other watchdog groups, have found fault with Mr. Pruitt’s travel practices.
The EPA chief has made it a normal practice to fly first class flights, even for short distances. In his first year in office, Mr. Pruitt has spent over $105,000 in luxury travel expenses, according to a politico report. These exorbitant flight fees, as well as Mr. Pruitt’s suspicious security spending has left lawmakers divided.
Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer (D-NY), ripped into Mr. Pruitt’s practices, “when it comes to the way Pruitt conducts himself as a member of the president’s Cabinet, a few words come to mind to describe him: elitism, corruption, entitlement, hypocrisy, fiscal profligacy.”
Even select Republicans have found fault with the behavior of the EPA chief, with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) saying that the situation, “doesn’t look good” and Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) stating that, “the appearance of impropriety matters.”
However, numerous high level officials came to the defense of Mr. Pruitt, including President Trump himself. On April 7th, Trump tweeted, “While Security spending was somewhat more than his predecessor, Scott Pruitt has received death threats because of his bold actions at EPA. Record clean Air & Water while saving USA Billions of Dollars. Rent was about market rate, travel expenses OK. Scott is doing a great job!”
An EPA spokesperson, Jahan Wilcox, also defended the security expenses of Mr. Pruitt, as he has faced, “an unprecedented amount of death threats against him.” He added, “Americans should all agree that members of the president’s cabinet should be kept safe from these violent threats.”
Despite the public outcry against him, Mr. Pruitt probably is not going anywhere fast. He continues to hold the support of Trump, as well as large portions of the Republican controlled House and Senate. Still, Democrats are hoping that these recent scandals could put an end to Mr. Pruitt and his gutting of the EPA.