Scott Pruitt has only been the head of the Environmental Protection Agency for a year, but he has been very, very busy. Unfortunately, if you’ve been following the news cycle, you know he’s been busy causing controversies. Pruitt’s work at the EPA, his budgetary excesses, his clashes with staff, and even his personal cleanliness have all been a focus of the tumultuous news cycle. Since it seems like, every day, the steady drip-drip won’t stop, here’s a brief chronology of Pruitt’s scandals and embarrassments, which seem to leave him in danger of being ousted.
May 15th, 2017: One of Pruitt’s first decisions, reversing a ban on the pesticide chlorpyrifos, comes under scrutiny when a shift in wind sickens farm workers. In July, it will be revealed Pruitt met with the head of Dow Chemical, which makes chlorpyrifos, despite denials he consulted with any personnel from Dow, and spoke with lobbyists on the topic.
July 24th, 2017: In the wake of former Health Department head Tom Price being fired for using taxpayer money to rent private jets, Pruitt’s travel records show he was making what appeared to be personal trips to Oklahoma and attempting to be reimbursed for them.
September 28th, 2017: One of Pruitt’s more embarrassing days unfolds today, as a bunch of newspaper articles drop about his expenditures. Pruitt’s flight demands alone are found to have cost $58,000 more than absolutely necessary. The Washington Post reveals that Pruitt has a vast personal security detail, triple what any previous EPA administrator, and it may be compromising the EPA enforcement functions, as agents who normally investigate EPA violations are instead protecting Pruitt.
Pruitt also is reported to have completely locked down the floor his office is on, and staffers allege they’re not allowed to bring cell phones or take notes when meeting with Pruitt. It’s also revealed that the EPA has spent at least $25,000 on a “cone of silence” to prevent eavesdropping. In March, it’s uncovered that he really spent $43,000.
December 16th, 2017: Pruitt hires a public relations firm for $120,000 to, among other things, find EPA employees critical of his leadership and behavior. The firm, it’s later alleged, lied on its application for Pruitt’s business.
February 14th, 2018: CBS News uncovers that Pruitt flew a far more expensive flight to Italy and back than his staffers. Pruitt also seems to fly Delta despite cheaper routes on other airlines, which turns out to be an attempt by Pruitt to rack up frequent flyer miles.
March 30th, 2018: Bloomberg reports that Pruitt has been renting a condo near Capitol Hill for $50 a month from an energy industry lobbyist. While this raises ethical concerns, it also highlights some aspects of Pruitt’s personal life. Among the details that later came out over his time in the condo, he refused to take out his trash, caused chaos at the building when his security detail broke down the door, and refused to leave the condo. Ultimately, the lobbyist, who may be getting pushed out of his firm over the scandal, had to change the locks to get rid of Pruitt.
April 2nd, 2018: It’s revealed Pruitt’s staff researched whether he could buy a $100,000 a month private jet subscription with public funds.
April 3rd, 2018: It’s revealed Pruitt used an obscure legal provision to give two of his friends raises after making a direct request to do so and being denied.
April 5th, 2018: A New York Times article reveals Pruitt has been demoting or otherwise punishing senior officials who pushed back against his spending. CBS News also reports that early on as EPA head, Pruitt demanded agents use sirens and lights to move traffic out of the way, as Pruitt wanted to get to his favorite restaurant on time.
April 6th, 2018: An EPA staffer reveals to the AP that when Pruitt pays for his own airfare, he flies coach, in sharp contrast to his first class flying for work.
April 12th, 2018: A former Pruitt aide reveals to the New York Times that Pruitt refused to stay at hotels that had been vetted for safety and demanded instead to stay at more expensive, and less secure, lodgings.
Pruitt appears to be safe in his seat, so far, if for no other reason that Trump has many other distractions to deal with. Yet it would be inarguably good for his career if Pruitt starts looking at the money he’s spending and makes some swift changes.