Leaving on a 1st Class Jet Plane: Pruitt’s Got to Go
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's testimony at the House Energy & Commerce Committee and House Appropriations Committee last week did little to alleviate public ire and instead highlighted his pattern of ethics missteps throughout his career.
Embattled Pruitt is currently entangled in more than 10 investigations for his ethical misdeeds by the EPA Inspector General, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and even the White House.
Yet he made sure to vilify the media and his political opponents for the negative attention he's received as EPA Administrator. No matter which scandal he was asked about, he shifted the blame to his staff, his security, his critics, just about anyone he could think of. That led one lawmaker to say, with Pruitt, “the buck stops nowhere.”
Despite his public and extensive spending spree, Pruitt was at the hearings advocating for a drastic slashing of the EPA budget, while moving to eviscerate EPA’s science, shuttering critical offices that protect the health of children and families, and working to repeal the Clean Power Plan.
House members went on to debate his sweetheart deals with industry, including his $50 a night stint in a swanky condo rented from the wife of J. Steven Hart, a prominent energy lobbyist. Despite Pruitt’s claims that he hadn’t done business with the lobbyist either in Oklahoma or while at the EPA, it later became apparent Pruitt’s statement was untrue. The EPA ethics office subsequently acknowledged “advice that’s given by an ethics official is only as good as the information that’s provided.”. During the hearing, Rep. Frank Pallone, stated “so far, we've only gotten half-truths, misleading answers, or outright falsehoods," and told Pruitt frankly, "you are unfit to hold public office and undeserving of the public trust."
When lawmakers probed him about his $43,000 "secure" phone booth, extravagant first class and international travel totaling more than $100,000, and billing the taxpayer for his around-the-clock security detail (including for personal trips to Disneyland and the Rose Bowl), he claimed that staff had made those decisions without his approval or knowledge. Of course, this came after the nonpartisan GAO determined that Pruitt violated federal law in using the $43,000 in taxpayer funds for the phone booth’s construction.
During tough questioning from Rep. Tonka, Pruitt retracted the claim he made in an interview with Ed Henry on Fox and Friends this his Chief of Staff acted without his knowledge on pay raises. He admitted that he did indeed know about the over 30 percent pay raises given to two EPA staffers, both women who had formerly worked for him in Oklahoma.
It’s clear Pruitt has little respect for the American people, his staff, or the legislators calling on him to be more transparent, honest, and careful with public funds. Now 190 legislators, including Republicans, have called for his resignation.
We have heard enough blame-shifting, mistruths, and dissembling. Enough is enough, it’s time for Pruitt to resign.