Someone really needs to cut up Scott Pruitt’s government credit card before he single-handedly thrusts the national debt far past the quadrillion point.
The account manager at the Tiny Jewelry Box, a retail store which bears the self-appointed title of Washington’s “premier destination for fine jewelry and watches,” was set to expedite an order of a dozen customized silver fountain pens, each bearing an inscription of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) seal and the signature of its “fiscally responsible” leader, Scott Pruitt.
One of Pruitt’s staffers was tasked with relaying the invoice back to his office so that a top aide could sign off on the $3,230 order, which also included personalized journals so that the swift destruction of the only environment the world has can be documented in a classy, leather-bound tome.
“The cost of the Qty. 12 Fountain Pens will be around $1,560.00,” the staffer emailed on Aug. 14 to Millan Hupp, Pruitt’s head of scheduling and advance. The name should ring a bell, as Hupp was a central component of an earlier scandal when Pruitt tried to give him an undeserved 33% raise. “All the other items total cost is around $1,670.00 which these items are in process. Please advise.”
“Yes, please order,” Hupp responded later that day. “Thank you.”
The Washington Post compiled the thousands of pages of emails released this week as part of a lawsuit waged by the Sierra Club under the Freedom of Information Act.
The exchanges further highlight the gaudy, overpriced taste of the EPA chief who is inexplicably still employed after wasting taxpayer dollars on paranoia-induced expenditures, like 24/7 security detail, a $43,000 soundproof booth for his office, or first-class travel so as to not be “bothered” while in flight, just to name a few.
Pruitt has taken the Trump tactic in rationalizing his expenses, blaming the issue on failures to curb excess already inherent within the agency. He doubled down on this issue just this week, telling The Washington Free Beacon:
“Some of the things that have been in the media are decisions made by career staff — processes that were at the agency that there weren’t proper checks and balances… I’m having to answer questions about decisions that others made. And that’s not an excuse, it’s just reality.”
He also said he had recently instituted changes, including requiring that any expense over $5,000 related to his duties must be approved by several top agency officials.
Unfortunately for Pruitt, paper trails don’t lie. The exchange from the summer of 2017 between the shopping EPA staffer and senior aide Hupp proves that it was not career staff which approved such transactions. Rather, it was the very people on whom Pruitt staked his reputation when he brought them on board, even if he himself was unaware of the expenses.
EPA spokesperson Jahan Wilcox went full on Huckabee Sanders in defense of the purchases in a statement made Friday, insisting the purchases were “were made for the purpose of serving as gifts to the Administrator’s foreign counterparts and dignitaries upon his meeting with them. This adheres to the same protocol of former EPA Administrators and were purchased using funds budgeted for such a purpose.”
Earlier this spring, The New York Times published a similar report, but at the time they did not have access to the list of prices. However, the Times account of the ordering process tells a different story than Wilcox. Pruitt had reportedly asked the agency for fountain pens, stationery, and leather-bound notebooks “from which he wanted to omit the E.P.A. seal and upon which he wanted to feature his name prominently.”
The seal ultimately made it onto the pen, but still, the request reads more like items intended for personal use or, if truly intended as gifts, were meant as a self-indulgent display to leaders around the world.
The same article also reported Pruitt wanted to change the agency’s “challenge coin,” a souvenir piece handed out by civilian and military leaders in the government. Trump faced scrutiny over his choice to prominently feature authoritarian dictator Kim Jong Un on a coin from the White House Communications agency, released ahead of his on-again, off-again Singapore summit with the nuclear-happy leader.
Pruitt’s redesign would have made the coin larger and removed the EPA logo. In it space, Pruitt “wanted the coin to feature some combination of symbols more reflective of himself and the Trump administration. Among the possibilities: a buffalo, to evoke Mr. Pruitt’s home state, Oklahoma, and a Bible verse to reflect his faith,” according to the Times.
Thankfully, that order never went through. The last thing the very nonsecular United States needs is another government-sanctioned bauble with a reference to a higher power.
At the end of the day, these particular expenses are paltry compared to his other purchases. Still, for an administration which repeatedly insists the country lacks the funding for necessities like healthcare or education, they have all the time in the world to obsess over materialism.
That’s just what happens when an out-of-touch billionaire is plopped into the Oval Office only to surround himself with his out-of-touch billionaire friends.