POLITICS
07/05/2018 07:52 pm ET Updated Jul 05, 2018

These Are The Scandals That Brought Down EPA Chief Scott Pruitt

Scott Pruitt resigned after racking up ethics probes over perks like first-class travel, courtside seats, secret calendars and soundproof booths.

The scandal-riddled Scott Pruitt resigned as the Environmental Protection Agency administrator on Thursday after a whirlwind of controversies, 18 federal ethics investigations into his office and still no answer as to whether he ever got ahold of that luxury lotion from the Ritz-Carlton. 

″[T]he unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us,” Pruitt wrote in his resignation letter.

It’s true that Pruitt has stoked the ire of scientists, taxpayers and several of those who worked under him. Here’s a look at the controversies that brought him down. 

  • He asked one of his aides to find his wife a job paying $200,000 or more a year, according to a Tuesday report on the aide’s testimony to congressional investigators.

  • He reportedly ordered an aide to set up a call with the chairman of Chick-fil-A last year to discuss the possibility of his wife becoming a franchisee of the fast-food chain.

  • He used “secret” calendars and schedules to hide controversial meetings with industry players, an EPA official told CNN on Tuesday.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt really wanted to help his wife open a Chick-fil-A franchise.
Brian Snyder / Reuters
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt really wanted to help his wife open a Chick-fil-A franchise.
  • He routinely asked his staffers to put hotel reservations on their personal credit cards. In one instance, his executive scheduler was reportedly stuck with a hotel bill of about $600 that she charged for his family during the Trump administration transition, according to a Washington Post report. 

  • He took advantage of a loophole in the Safe Drinking Water Act to give two of his longtime aides $56,765 and $28,130 raises, despite the White House already rejecting his requests to do so. He reportedly knew about and supported the raises, despite denying having any knowledge of them this spring. 

  • He allowed an aide to moonlight as a media consultant. When that news broke, the EPA refused to disclose the identities of the aide’s clients.

  • He had a tendency to send his staffers out on personal errands for him. Those alleged tasks included searching for “an old mattress” from the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., booking personal travel for him while they were on vacation and fetching his favorite snacks.

  • He took similar liberties with his security team, reportedly deploying them once to track down his favorite lotion offered at Ritz-Carlton hotels and periodically directing his motorcade to use flashing lights and sirens to cut through D.C. traffic, including at least one outing to a popular restaurant.

Scott Pruitt participates in an Independence Day picnic at the White House the day before handing in his resignatio
Joshua Roberts / Reuters
Scott Pruitt participates in an Independence Day picnic at the White House the day before handing in his resignation. 
  • He has a track record of punishing staffers who questioned or disagreed with him, particularly on his spending, and reportedly demoted or forced out five agency officials who spoke up.

  • He reportedly spent close to $3 million, including pay and travel expenses, on round-the-clock security guards.

  • He lavishly decked out his office on the taxpayer dime, installing a $43,000 private phone booth, placing biometric locks on his office doors for $5,700 and spending over $1,500 on fountain pens and more than $1,600 on journals from an upscale Washington shop.

  • He spent an egregious amount of his agency’s money on flights and other travel expenses, at times for trips that fell outside the scope of EPA duties. He routinely spent $1,400 to $4,000 on flights to Boston, New York and Corpus Christi, Texas, and in total spent more than $12,000 in airfare for frequent trips to his home state of Oklahoma, where he spent 43 out of 92 days last spring.

  • He also took multiple international trips with six-figure price tags. One of those was a $120,000 trip to Morocco in December to promote liquefied natural gas ― a strange responsibility for a U.S. environmental regulator to take on. The trip was reportedly planned by a lobbyist friend of Pruitt’s who was hired soon after the trip by the Moroccan government.

People protest before EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing in Apr
Brian Snyder / Reuters
People protest before EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing in April.
  •  He had a $50-a-night sweetheart deal to rent a luxury Capitol Hill townhouse linked to a fossil fuel industry lobbying firm, Williams & Jensen.
  • He signed off on a $120,000 no-bid contract with a media opposition-research firm. The EPA canceled the contract after Mother Jones exposed the deal in December.

  • He routinely blocked mainstream media outlets from accessing basic information about his schedule or actions but granted interviews to conservative outlets such as Fox News, Breitbart News and The Daily Caller. In May, he barred reporters from entering a heavily publicized summit on toxic water contaminants.

  • In December, he sat courtside at a University of Kentucky basketball game as the guest of Joseph W. Craft III, a billionaire coal executive who aggressively lobbied to reverse Obama-era environmental rules.

  • He named a coal lobbyist as his No. 2 ― the man who could replace him. Andrew Wheeler, who previously lobbied for the coal giant Murray Energy, is a climate change denier and is likely to execute the same deregulatory agenda Pruitt has pursued.

Pruitt takes questions from reporters in June 2017. He was known for shutting journalists out of crucial meetings.
Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
Pruitt takes questions from reporters in June 2017. He was known for shutting journalists out of crucial meetings.
  • He named Steven D. Cook, a former chemical industry lawyer, as the new head of the EPA’s Superfund Task Force. The plastics and refining conglomerate where Cook spent more than 20 years as the in-house counsel is linked to at least three dozen Superfund pollution sites.

  • He frequently clashed with scientists at the EPA and gave undue weight to climate deniers. In a proposal widely panned by researchers and killed by White House chief of staff John Kelly, Pruitt wanted to host a televised debate on climate science, pitting a “red team” against a “blue team.” He also fired and replaced the EPA’s top science advisers without telling them.  

  • Since Pruitt took office, the EPA has worked closely with the Heartland Institute, a right-wing think tank that’s a leading proponent of climate change denial. In January, HuffPost reported that the group protected a former executive charged with stalking and harassing a female colleague. 

  • According to calendars reviewed by HuffPost, Pruitt spent more time meeting with oil, gas and coal industry officials than with environmental and public health advocates during his first few weeks in office.

  • He refused to recuse himself from the EPA’s effort to repeal the Clean Power Plan, despite the four lawsuits he filed as Oklahoma attorney general that were aimed at the Obama-era regulation. 

HuffPost

BEFORE YOU GO

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Why Scott Pruitt Is A 'Dangerous' Choice To Lead The EPA
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