Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, has spent more than half of his time away from his Washington office, according to government records. That's not that unusual for someone who's from another state but who works in DC. But why are U.S. taxpayers paying for his trips back home?
Since Pruitt was confirmed by the Senate and sworn in, he has spent 48 of his 92 days out of the office. Most of Pruitt's time away from D.C. was spent in Oklahoma, his home state, according to documents obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), a group founded by former EPA officials.
The EPA has spent more than $12,000 on airfare alone for Pruitt thus far. According to the Environmental Integrity Project, those numbers do not include additional airline costs for Pruitt's staff members and security detail. Hotel costs were not included in the numbers released by the EPA, either.
"The New York Times" noted on Monday that Pruitt's predecessor, Gina McCarthy, also traveled back to her hometown of Boston but that she paid for her own airfare instead of having taxpayers pay for it. In a news release publicizing the Pruitt documents, EIP noted that excessive taxpayer-paid travel to one's home region was specifically called out by the environmental agency's Inspector General in a 2015 report.
“It seems fair to ask whether all of Administrator Pruitt’s trips – and the money they cost taxpayers – are ‘essential to performance of the agency,” EIP's executive director Eric Schaeffer said. “It is also fair to ask how much additional money is spent to fly his entourage of security guards back and forth to his home state if that is where the administrator is going to spend half his time.”
President Donald Trump has also come under fire from left-leaning groups for his frequent trips to his golf resorts. Someone has even set up a website called Trump Golf Count, which tracks the president's travels and compares them to his predecessor, Barack Obama.
As of this writing, according to the site, Trump has visited his courses 40 times since being sworn in. He's gone golfing at least 16 separate times, putting him on a pace to more than double the number of 306 games that Obama played in his eight years as president. Obama was frequently criticized by Republicans for golfing too much, including many times by Trump himself: