You can’t fault EPA Director Scott Pruitt for lacking ambition. If anything, he’s set to outshine his boss President Trump in the one area no one ever thought possible: the number of simultaneous scandals he could endure while still retaining his office.
Pruitt’s legacy as the (hopefully temporary) steward of U.S. environmental policies will include, if he has his way, a dismantling of every regulation put in place during the Obama administration to protect the environment for the American public in favor of policies favored by the private energy and gas lobbyists he spent his time suing the EPA on behalf of when he was Attorney General of his native Oklahoma.
Since arriving in Washington D.C. as a member of President Trump’s cabinet, Pruitt has managed to develop a reputation as an avaricious spender who has never met a perk that he thought he didn’t deserve and managed to carve out a whole new set of perquisites that few have ever dared to try to get away with.
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To list a few of the most egregious offenses that Pruitt has racked up in his brief year and a quarter tenure, there were the first class and private airplane trips that he took instead of the more economical coach flights that he feared taking because he was afraid of being verbally assaulted by irate environmentalists while sitting among the commoners.
There was the augmented private security detail that he hired to protect him from environmental terrorists; the $43,000 sound-proof booth he had installed in his office to ensure that no career EPA employees could overhear him hatching plans to eliminate air and water pollution regulations or conspire with energy industry lobbyists; the far below market rate apartment that he rented from the wife of an energy industry lobbyist who had business before the EPA and that he had to be evicted from when he overstayed his lease.
If you’re detecting some patterns here of excessive spending of public dollars to help save Pruitt money that should have come from his own pocket and of excessive chumminess with the lobbyists for industries that he is in charge of regulating, then the latest scandal revealed today in The New York Times should come as no surprise at all.
The new revelations date back to Pruitt’s career as a state senator in Oklahoma and demonstrate that corruption started early on for the future EPA chief. The details of Pruitt’s purchase of a home just blocks from the state capitol in which he worked were obscured by the shell company under which he made the purchase from a retiring telecommunications lobbyist.
Marsha Lindsey, who worked for the predecessor of what is now branded as AT&T , bought the house in 2002 for around $475,000 and sold it to a shell company registered to Pruitt’s business partner and law school friend, Kenneth Wagner (now a top EPA official himself), a year later for $375,000.
What would seem to be a significant loss on the real estate transaction was in fact not a problem for Ms. Lindsey, since her employer, SBC Oklahoma, as it was known at the time, picked up the difference between her purchase price and what Pruitt’s front company paid, according to the Times which details the complex real estate deal in its report.
Pruitt’s less than arm’s length business dealings with this lobbyist helped establish a pattern of entitlement and self-dealing that has continued to the present and, now, with the media and Congress increasingly focusing their scrutiny on the EPA Administrator’s excesses, Pruitt is facing calls for his resignation and/or firing over his belief that ethics rules simply don’t apply to him.
Hopefully, Pruitt will be held accountable for his misdeeds and lack of judgment, but in the world of the Trump administration, it may not be smart to hold your breath waiting for anything like that to happen soon.
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