Editorial: EPA’s Pruitt Is Proof That Scandal Doesn’t Matter in the Trump Era

  • Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt appears before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on budget on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 16, 2018. Pruitt goes before a Senate panel Wednesday as he faces a growing number of federal ethics investigations over his lavish spending on travel and security. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Monday, June 11, 2018

With the Trump era’s constant churn and chaos, what would be career-ending scandals in any other time do not get the sustained attention they deserve. The proof: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who continues to serve though seemingly every day a new story emerges about his petty corruption, almost comical were it not so contemptuous of ethical public service.

Last week began with a story about Pruitt’s misuse of a government employee’s time on strange personal matters. It had already been reported that the administrator had enlisted Millan Hupp, his recently departed director of scheduling and advance, to search for Washington-area homes for him. Then, on Monday, two Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., revealing that Hupp last September contacted the Trump International Hotel asking whether Pruitt could buy a used Trump Home Luxury Plush Euro Pillow Top mattress. According to the letter, Hupp also planned the administrator’s trip to California to see the Oklahoma Sooners play in the Rose Bowl.

The government does not hire servants to do menial private tasks for Cabinet members. In fact, federal rules forbid subordinates even from volunteering their time to do things like call around about used mattresses for their superiors.

On Tuesday, The Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis and Josh Dawsey reported that Pruitt had Hupp’s sister, Sydney Hupp, also an EPA employee at the time, contact the chief executive of fast-food chain Chick-fil-A to arrange a meeting. The subject: obtaining a restaurant franchise for Pruitt’s wife, Marlyn. A phone call was arranged, then canceled, and the administrator eventually spoke with the restaurant chain’s legal department, only then revealing what he wanted. Pruitt never became a franchisee. But she did benefit from another instance of her husband’s inside-track advocacy, getting a temporary event-planning gig from Concordia, a nonprofit, after Pruitt reached out to its boss.

Not only are these new examples of the administrator misusing EPA staff time, they also show that Pruitt tried to leverage his high office to obtain business opportunities for his wife. This is in keeping with Pruitt’s record, starting with his time as a politician in Oklahoma, of aggressively pursuing favors, perks and other baubles as he ascended the ranks of government.

The week ended with yet more reports that Pruitt ordered staff to pick up his dry cleaning and get him snacks.

Pruitt’s EPA has spent lavishly on a 24-hour security detail, first-class airline tickets and foreign trips that had little to do with his job as the nation’s top environmental steward. He has obtained costly renovations to his office, including a $43,000 soundproof booth in which Pruitt could conduct private meetings — totally unnecessary because there were already secure communications rooms at EPA headquarters. He has maintained untoward relationships with lobbyists, including one whose wife rented Pruitt a Capitol Hill condo on extremely generous terms.

Pruitt is the embodiment of President Donald Trump’s hypocrisy on the Washington “swamp.” The president has not drained the swamp; he has deepened the sleaziness.

The Washington Post