Pruitt's penchant for using lobbyists as travel agents

Following a month-long scandal snowball that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt seems unable to stop, two new stories have emerged regarding lobbyists benefiting from helping the EPA administrator make travel plans. First, the unusual involvement of lobbyist Richard Smotkin in planning Pruitt's trip to Morocco in December. Congress questioned Pruitt last week on why he focused the trip on promoting exports of liquefied natural gas, something that does not fall under his agency's mission (which, FYI, is to protect the environment and public health). After the trip, Smotkin was hired by the Moroccan government at a substantial rate. Second, an ex-lobbyist and ousted member of President Trump’s transition team, Matthew C. Freedman, helped plan the agenda for an Australia trip and then tried to cover up his involvement. Freedman runs his own corporate advisory firm, previously lobbied for foreign governments, and is a treasurer at the American Australian Council—two prominent members of which include (wait for it!) the natural gas companies Chevron and ConocoPhillips. The Australia trip never happened (due to Hurricane Harvey), but the implications remain the same: The privileged status Pruitt grants his lobbyist pals allows them to engineer his official EPA trips and, consequently, set the agency’s agenda.

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