We keep hearing about big spender, Scott Pruitt, taking first-class flights around the globe on the taxpayer’s dime. In fact, Politico reported in February that Pruitt spent over $90,000 last June on first-class flights instead of coach, as required by federal regulation because angry individuals were confronting him in airports and occasionally yelling profanities at him.
It appears, however, that when it comes to spending his own money, he is a bit cheaper.
Last week, ABC News revealed that EPA Chief Pruitt had been renting a Capitol Hill condo partly owned by lobbyist Vicki Hart, whose husband, J. Steven Hart, is president of Williams and Jensen, a firm who lobbies the EPA on behalf of polluters. The terms of the unconventional lease with the lobbyist allowed Pruitt to pay only for nights when he used the condo, at a rate of $50 a night. Apparently, Pruitt’s daughter and wife also stayed at the condo with Pruitt at times. Documents further show that Pruitt paid only $6100 to use the condo over about 6 months, which works out to approximately $1020 for about 20 nights use per month. With weekday rates at 3 star Capitol Hill hotels starting in the mid $200’s, or 2 bedroom apartment rentals running $3000 a month and up, this below-market deal would appear to be an in-kind gift to the EPA administrator from a lobbyist…who lobbies the EPA.
The impropriety of this living arrangement is further called into question when you discover how Pruitt’s efforts have benefitted clients of Hart’s lobbying firm. In December, Pruitt flew to Morocco, at taxpayers’ expense, to encourage that country to import liquefied natural gas from the U.S., which seemed odd at the time. Coincidentally, the only company which exports liquefied natural gas from the continental U.S. is Cheniere, a client of Williams and Jensen.
In addition, in March of last year, Pruitt held a meeting with OGE Energy Corp chairman and CEO Sean Trauschke and George Baker, a lobbyist from Hart’s firm. OGE had paid Williams and Jensen $400,000 to lobby the EPA (i.e., Pruitt) on issues including regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Surprise, surprise, seven months later, Pruitt and the EPA announced plans to rewrite the Clean Power Plan, which sought to regulate climate-changing emissions from coal-fired power plants like the ones owned by OGE.
These maneuvers were in addition to Pruitt’s ongoing efforts to toss out, gut, or replace numerous other environmental regulations aimed at protecting human health, but which are opposed by the oil and gas industry.
It’s no wonder that people in airports are yelling at Pruitt. Maybe if he listened to them instead of to his lobbyist landlord, he wouldn’t be in jeopardy of losing his job. Let’s hope he does lose his job. Maybe then we’ll all have cleaner air to breathe.