Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt doesn’t care. After disrupting most of the country’s environmental initiatives over the past decade, choosing business over the environment, he clearly shows disinterest in protecting the environment (which we’re not covering here). Pruitt also doesn’t care about the growing list of ethical violations, which centers around the use of his office for personal gain. This, we’re going to cover.
Let’s start with college football.
An Oklahoma-based PR firm helped Pruitt acquire four Rose Bowl tickets from Renzi Stone, a member of the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents and CEO of Saxum; this public relations firm represents oil and gas companies. Representative Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, requested more information from the Oklahoma University’s Board of Regents. According to the New York Times, Pruitt purchased four tickets “near the 50-yard line for the face value of $175 each, documents show. The tickets, for Mr. Pruitt and his wife and two children, were purchased five days before the sold-out New Year’s Day game this year.”
This was a sold out National Championship game between Oklahoma and Georgia — tickets only cost $175 should send an immediate red flag.
“Federal ethics rules prohibit government employees from accepting gifts, such as tickets, to sporting events, unless they pay ‘market value,’ Cummings wrote in the letter to Stone requesting information about the exchange. He also noted that ethics rules prevent government employees from accepting gifts from individuals whose work is regulated by, working with, or seeking action from the relevant agency.
Other possible violations and scandals include:
- Pruitt asked his former top aide Samantha Dravis to reach out with the Republican Attorneys General Association to find his wife a job with a salary of $200,000 or more. On another occasion, he had another EPA aide help his wife find a job with Chick-fil-A.
- Accepted two floor seats to a University of Kentucky basketball game from billionaire coal executive Joseph W. Craft III. Again, he’s accepting gifts from folks he’s supposed to be regulating.
- “At least three” staff members were tasked with finding his daughter a summer internship at the White House, according to the New York Times.
- Had his security detail “run errands for him on occasion, including picking up his dry cleaning and taking him in search of a favorite moisturizing lotion”, writes the Washington Post. His security detail has cost taxpayers over $3 million by April 2018.
- Ordered significant raises for two aides, even after the White House denied the request. Once he was caught, Pruitt played dumb, saying “I found out this yesterday and I corrected the action and we are in the process of finding out how it took place and correcting it.”
- Pruitt paid $50/month for a condo owned by a family member of a lobbyist who lobbied at the EPA.
- Installed Biometric locks on his office door for $5,700. Another $2,460 was paid to repair his condo door after agents feared he was unconscious on a Wednesday afternoon. He was napping. On a Wednesday afternoon.
- Sent public servants to pick up his favorite snacks.
You can find more at Axios.
Democrats have asked FBI Director Christopher Wray to open a criminal investigation, writing about “grave concerns” regarding Pruitt’s use of his “public office and official, taxpayer-funded resources for the personal gain of himself and his family, in violation of federal law.”
Republicans and conservatives are expressing concern, if not abandonment. Senator James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, warns that Pruitt might need to step down. The National Review, a conservative publication wrote:
This is no way for any public official to treat taxpayers. It also makes it practically impossible for Pruitt to make the case for the Trump administration’s environmental policies — a case that we continue to believe deserves to be made. It does not help that Pruitt’s conduct has left him nearly alone at the agency. Many of his top aides have fled and paranoia seems to consume those who remain.
It seems clear Pruitt’s exit as EPA administrator is near. Then again, you just never what’ll happen next with this administration.