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Records show EPA chief's personal budget swelled as he pushed cuts to the agency

Records show millions of dollars of taxpayer money has gone to providing Pruitt with less-than-austere amenities like first-class tickets, a 24-hour security detail, and a $43,000 soundproof booth.

by Alexa Liautaud
Mar 21 2018, 12:53am

EPA chief Scott Pruitt may applaud cuts to the agency, but his personal budget appears to be far larger than those of his predecessors. Records show millions of taxpayer dollars have gone to providing Pruitt with less-than-austere amenities like first-class flights, a 24-hour security detail, and a $43,000 soundproof booth.

Pruitt spent roughly $105,000 on first-class tickets, the Daily Beast reported Tuesday, for example, and another $43,000 installing the soundproof phone booth, which none of his predecessors required, according to the Washington Post.

Pruitt is also the first head of the EPA to require a 24-hour security detail, which cost more than $830,000 over just three months, according to E&E News, which obtained documents through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The full picture of Pruitt’s spending still remains to be seen. House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy demanded records of Pruitt’s taxpayer-funded travel in February, but on Monday, Senate Democrat Tom Udall of New Mexico said the EPA was not complying with a spending investigation.

“I am concerned that the agency may be misleading the committee and the public about the function of the privacy booth while also inappropriately classifying the expense as related to national security in order to avoid proper notification under section 710,” Gowdy wrote in a letter.

Pruitt said in an interview with CBS that his flights and security detail were imperative for his safety.

“The quantity and type of threats that I face are unprecedented,” Pruitt said. “They wanted me on a position on the plane to be able to exit expeditiously if an incident arose, and that’s why the change arose.”

Pruitt is not the only high-profile spender cases of Trump’s cabinet picks. Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin spent more than $1 million in taxpayer dollars on military flights, Housing secretary Ben Carson ordered a $31,000 dining set in spite of his $5,000 decorating cap, and former Health secretary Tom Price resigned after it was revealed he had spent more than $400,000 on flying private.

Cover image: WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 26: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with the members of the National Governors Association in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)