Taxpayers foot the bill, and Scott Pruitt doesn't travel in coach

The head of the EPA sleeps in fancy hotels, frequently flies first class and travels on a secret schedule

By Charlie May
Published February 12, 2018 8:46AM (EST)
 (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt's first year was filled with unusually secret travel, stays at extravagant hotels and plenty of first-class travel. Pruitt's habits are the latest in the Trump administration to come under scrutiny and have cost taxpayers at least tens of thousands of dollars.

During a stretch of trips both within the United States and abroad in early June, Pruitt and his aides cost taxpayers at least $90,000, according to Freedom of Information Act Requests obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project, The Washington Post reported. Pruitt's expenses also include his round-the-clock security detail, which breaks from the norm of predecessors. Those costs are still entirely unknown to the public.

Pruitt's trips included a $1,641.43 first-class seat for a roughly 90-minute flight from New York City to Washington, D.C. The tickets cost more than six times the cost of the two media aides, who also took the trip and sat in coach seats. Two days later he traveled to Cincinnati on Air Force One with President Donald Trump for an infrastructure event, only to race back to New York on a military jet, along with several staffers, and fly from New York to Rome. That cost taxpayers $36,068.50.

Pruitt typically travels with an abundance of aides, who usually fly coach, but Pruitt frequently treats himself to first-class travel. His schedule is not announced ahead of time, and his whereabouts are rarely disclosed to the public, the Post reported. "While on the road, Pruitt often stays at high-end hotels, according to travel records: the Kimpton in Salt Lake City, Le Meridien in Minneapolis, the Capital in Little Rock and the Michelangelo in New York."

With his travel, "he’s trying to further positive environmental outcomes and achieve tangible environmental results," EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman told the Post. "He’s communicating the message about his agenda and the president’s agenda." She also claimed all of his travel has been approved by ethics officials.

Federal regulations mandate that government employees must "exercise the same care in incurring expenses that a prudent person would exercise if traveling on personal business . . . and therefore, should consider the least expensive class of travel that meets their needs," the Post noted. In certain circumstances, such as flights that are 14 hours long or during "exceptional security circumstances," first-class travel is permitted.

"What did American taxpayers get for Pruitt visiting the Vatican and getting photographed with European agency heads?" Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project said of Pruitt's Italy trip last year. "This was all for show."

Pruitt is simply the latest Trump official to come into the spotlight for abusing taxpayer funds, specifically in the form of extravagant travel. Former Health and Human Services secretary, Tom Price, resigned after reports surfaced that he racked up a $1 million tab of lavish travel on private planes. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was caught spending over $14,000 on short government helicopter trips, one of which was to horseback ride with Vice President Mike Pence.

Trump ran his campaign as a champion for the American worker, and in the past he repeatedly berated former President Barack Obama for taxpayer abuse, a common cry amongst Republicans, despite the brazen hypocrisy. First Lady Melania Trump has also come under fire for her taxpayer tab for living in New York instead of the White House for the first few months of her husband's administration. Additionally, Trump's golfing habit and frequent trips to his properties have already costed taxpayers millions.

Charlie May

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