Wednesday, May 9, 2018

290. Pruitt doesn't belong at EPA

Despite promising to hire the best people, President Donald Trump’s administration has been a revolving door with Trump hiring them and then firing them in often rapid and dramatic fashion. He pledged to “drain the swamp,” but I am not sure he planned on stocking the swamp as well.

One slime-covered gator still swimming in the metaphorical political swamp is Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt.

Pruitt is, in fact, an enemy of the EPA, describing himself as a “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.” Putting him in charge of the EPA would be like putting a trophy hunter in charge of PETA. Pruitt, of course, doesn’t “believe” in climate change, to the degree that all references to climate change were removed from the agency website. The White House and EPA have sought to reverse as many as 67 environmental rules, according to the Harvard Law School’s Environmental Regulation Rollback Tracker and reported in the New York Times. Some include reversing migratory bird protections, endangered species listings, and the anti-dumping rule for coal companies. That 52 Republicans confirmed him in the Senate is embarrassing. His relationship with fossil fuel companies was apparently too lucrative to pass up.

It’s quickly becoming the Environmental Destruction Agency.

But it’s not just his environmental record, it’s also his ethics — or lack of them. Like his boss, he seems to have little regard for taxpayer money or conflicts of interest. He has allegedly rented a condo for $50 a night in Washington, D.C., from a lobbyist and purchased a $43,000 soundproof phone booth.

The Office of Government Ethics has also questioned his frequent and sometimes first-class travel, raises given to some employees, and demotion of employees who questioned his spending. Acting director David Apol wrote, “If true, it is hard to imagine any action that could more effectively undermine an agency’s integrity than punishing or marginalizing employees who strive to ensure compliance with the laws and regulations that safeguard that integrity.”

Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) said, “He’s the subject of no less than five independent investigations, he has retaliated against EPA staff who have questioned his spending habits, and he likely violated ethics rules by renting an apartment from an industry lobbyist.”

But it is not just environmentalists and Democrats who want to see Pruitt fired. Many Republicans have had enough, including, according to a Wall Street Journal report, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.

The Hill reported this spring that “Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Florida) appear(s) to be the first Republican lawmaker to publicly request Pruitt’s dismissal. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) echoed his call shortly after. In a Tuesday afternoon tweet, Curbello said Pruitt’s ‘corruption scandals are an embarrassment to the administration, and his conduct is grossly disrespectful to American taxpayers.’”

Thus far, Pruitt has Trump’s support. In light of the turnover in the Trump administration, it is both mystifying and unfathomable that this is the guy that Trump stands with. Then again, ethics have never been anything that Trump has seemed to care much about — unless he was trying to impose them on President Barack Obama.

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