Nearly every day brings an addition to Scott Pruitt’s disturbing and often comic cavalcade of bad behavior as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He apparently isn’t content with rolling back decades of progress in protecting the environment and public health. He seems equally determined to trample every federal ethics law and policy he encounters along the way. It’s time for him to go.
Recent testimony from aides and internal emails show Pruitt habitually uses EPA staff to conduct his personal business. Among the most egregious: A few months into office, he instructed a senior aide to set up a meeting with the CEO of Chick-fil-A to discuss a “business opportunity.” It turned out to be an attempt to help his wife circumvent a highly competitive process to win a franchise.
Other recent news reports centered on Pruitt’s inability to refrain from extravagant uses of taxpayer dollars, including the purchase of a dozen personalized fountain pens at $130 each from a luxury jewelry store. And he continues to flout restrictions on accepting gifts, including a courtside seat at a University of Kentucky basketball game from a coal executive.
Then there’s the bizarre request for an aide to call the Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C. to buy a used mattress. The bedding was apparently intended for the below-market-value condo he rents from a lobbyist in the nation’s capital. Pruitt pays only for the nights he stays there; aides say he asked them to arrange for him to travel or work at his Tulsa, Oklahoma home in August to avoid that rent.
Americans are familiar with Pruitt’s fondness for travel — on his terms. He insists on flying first class after encountering an unhappy taxpayer on one flight. He also uses expensive charter flights and military aircraft. Aides say he gave them a list of a dozen countries where he wants to travel and asked them to find official reasons for visits.
Pruitt has spent $3.5 million on security thus far, including for personal trips. That’s well ahead of the average of $1.9 million a year by his predecessors. He also spent $43,000 on a soundproof phone booth in his office, citing security needs.
Pruitt’s judgment on environmental policy is no less abysmal. He is gutting fuel economy and emissions standards championed by California, rolling back dozens of regulations and squelching efforts to respond to climate change.
Pruitt is the subject of at least a dozen formal investigations by the Government Accountability Office, EPA inspector general, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and others. He is even starting to draw criticism from hardline conservatives like Iowa Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley, who are upset about his ethanol policy. Ernst says Pruitt is “about as swampy as you get.” Grassley says Pruitt has “betrayed the president.”
President Donald Trump apparently doesn’t see the corruption let alone acknowledge it publicly. He praised Pruitt’s performance last week, saying the EPA is doing “very, very well.”
But Pruitt is clearly more interested in serving himself and his industry patrons than taxpayers. His departure is long overdue, and if Trump has any hope of being taken seriously about draining the swamp, he needs to find someone with more integrity to head the EPA.
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