Scott Pruitt has a bigger security detail than past EPA administrators, and they travel with him everywhere — even on vacation, according to a letter from a Democratic senator obtained by CNN.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island has new evidence, provided to him by an anonymous source, that Pruitt’s bringing his security detail with him on personal business — including trips to the Rose Bowl game on New Year’s Day, Disneyland, and home to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Whitehouse sent details of Pruitt’s use of security on private business to the EPA’s inspector general, which is looking into Pruitt’s use of taxpayer cash for travel and security, according to a CNN story out Friday.
Whitehouse’s office confirmed to VICE News that his letter was shared with the inspector general.
"While I consider matters of personal security to be extremely serious, personal security should never be used as a pretext to obtain special treatment," Whitehouse wrote in the letter.
Pruitt’s come under scrutiny for the costs for his large, round-the-clock security detail, which he took with him on a European trip last year at a cost of $30,000. His security has often flown first class with him — a cost that the EPA has deemed necessary because passengers in coach were telling Pruitt that he was “fucking up the environment.”
The Rose Bowl trip is already part of a lawsuit. Journalist Nick Surgey requested records related to Pruitt’s trip to the annual college football game this past January. When the EPA wouldn’t deliver, he sued, noting that tickets for the game went for more than $1,500 and that the public deserves to know whether Pruitt was the beneficiary of any “corporate hospitality.”
In his first three months on the job, Pruitt spent some $832,735 on salaries and travel for his security staff. The costs of protecting him, at this rate, will be over $2 million a year, according to CNN.
Whitehouse’s letter reportedly claims that Pruitt employed between two and three dozen security personnel in a six-week period.
Past administrators have had much more limited security arrangements than Pruitt does. Gina McCarthy, Pruitt’s predecessor, had what’s known as “door-to-door” security, which accompanied her from home to her office, and back home in the evening.
Democrats aren’t the only ones skeptical of the way Pruitt is spending taxpayer money. Rep. Trey Gowdy, a Republican from South Carolina, made Pruitt’s office turn over all of his travel records last month.
“Administrator Pruitt follows the same security protocol whether he’s in his personal or official capacity,” EPA spokesperson Jahan Wilcox told VICE News in an email. The office seemed to confirm that Pruitt does always have security with him. The EPA has often stressed that Pruitt receives more threats than his predecessors.
"We have at least four times — four to five times the number of threats against Mr. Pruitt than we had against Ms. [Gina] McCarthy," Patrick Sullivan, EPA's assistant inspector general for investigations, told CNN last year. As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt was at odds with the EPA’s mission under McCarthy, and sued the EPA 14 times over regulations the agency had put forward.
News of Whitehouse’s letter is breaking the same day the EPA administrator is reportedly in hot water with the White House over his staying in a condo connected to a lobbyist power couple in D.C. for motel prices of $50 a night.
Cover image: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt talks with local media following a press conference after taking a tour of the Black Thunder coal mine outside of Wright, Wyo., Thursday, March 29, 2018. (Josh Galemor/The Casper Star-Tribune via AP)