EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is scheduled to appear next week before the U.S. Senate to discuss the agency’s budget.
Hopefully, lawmakers responsible for allocating federal tax dollars will not waste this opportunity to provide some measure of accountability and oversight for an administrator who has repeatedly shown a stunning lack of judgment in his use of taxpayer money.
From first-class travel and accommodations to requests for a bullet-proof office desk, Pruitt’s profligacy with the public’s money ranges from extravagant to downright bizarre.
Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, a member of the appropriations subcommittee holding the hearing, can lead the way by fully examining the wasteful decisions the administrator has made about his travel, security, and other extravagant office costs.
Although Pruitt has every right to security, his expenses are excessive. In the first three months on the job, he spent over $832,000 on a 20-person, 24/7 security detail. Security agents also accompanied him and his family to Disneyland, and to an Oklahoma football game at the Rose Bowl. His predecessor, in contrast, had a six-person detail and no security in off-hours.
Then there is the $43,000 phone booth. In addition to $9,000 biometric locks Mr. Pruitt had installed on his office doors, he also installed a soundproof phone booth. While it is entirely reasonable to expect some confidential communications equipment at a federal agency, the EPA already has two secure communications rooms available.
Meanwhile, according to the Government Accountability Office, expenses exceeded the allocation for improvements to the administrator’s office, so the purchase and installation violated federal law.
Pruitt also reportedly requested an additional $70,000 in office furniture (including the bullet-proof desk), a bullet-proof car, and $100,000-per-month private jet membership, which were denied. He also wanted to set up a brand new satellite EPA office in his hometown of Tulsa, complete with custom accommodations for the 24-hour security team and another soundproof phone booth.
Pruitt’s lack of fiscal probity goes past the water’s edge. New documents reveal that a four-day trip to Morocco, originally estimated at $40,000 ultimately clocked in at $100,000, including a $494 per night hotel room in Paris on the way home. More problematic, the trip was arranged by a lobbyist who was later awarded a retroactive $40,000 per month lobbying contract with Morocco.
A $120,000, four-day trip to Italy last summer for a G-7 meeting included four hours of work related meetings, a private tour of the Vatican, and $90,000 on military transport, food, and hotels.
All told, the EPA has racked up more than $3 million in expenses for Pruitt’s security and travel arrangements so far. And because so many are questionable, the administrator now finds himself the subject of 11 federal investigations for ethics violations and brazen abuse of taxpayer funds.
Pruitt’s defenders say he is only being targeted by people who want to derail his progress and oppose the President’s agenda. This is absurd. Of course the President will appoint those who share the administration’s priorities. We know Scott Pruitt is not the only one that can do that job.
All presidential appointees should be remember that the money they spend in carrying out the office belongs to taxpayers. Their spending decisions should reflect the needs of the taxpayer — nothing less, nothing more.