Sens. Tom Carper, D-Delaware; Tom Udall, D-New Mexico; and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, released newly obtained details on travel expenses for security staff protecting Environmental Protection Agency administrators during the Barack Obama administration.
The analysis from EPA documents refute current EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s claim that his travel expenses are comparable to that of past administrators. They show that Obama EPA administrators averaged $220,483 per year in travel expenses for security personnel — less than one-third of Pruitt’s $733,737 security personnel travel expenses for 2017.
On multiple occasions, Pruitt has cited travel expenses of past administrations as justification for his more than $3 million in travel and security expenses incurred over his first year as administrator alone. The analysis directly contradicts Pruitt’s claim of comparable spending levels, showing that Pruitt’s enhanced security measures have increased travel expenses for his security detail to more than three times those of his predecessors.
“Mr. Pruitt wants to muddy the waters after racking up massive travel bills, but he’s not fooling anyone,” the senators said. “Parents and families across the country are watching his administration brazenly misuse their tax dollars — dollars they expect will be spent protecting their children and communities from toxic chemicals and pollution, not on premium travel for him, his staff and his private security entourage. Mr. Pruitt’s continued abuses do not reflect the work of true public servants who should be putting the mission of the agency and the people they serve above all else.”
The new information comes weeks after EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins wrote to Carper and Whitehouse to clarify that, contrary to Pruitt’s assertions made before Congress, EPA’s Office of the Inspector General “plays no role in determining how the agency protects the administrator,” and that “neither the administrator nor his staff consulted with OIG on the appropriateness of relying on the OIG’s statements to justify increasing spending.” In his letter to the senators, Elkins went further, stating that “EPA’s Protective Service Detail began providing 24/7 coverage of the administrator the first day he arrived at the EPA….after being informed that Mr. Pruitt requested 24/7 protection once he was confirmed as administrator.”
Following several requests from Carper and Whitehouse, EPA’s inspector general continues to audit all of Pruitt’s travel for 2017. Udall has also made similar requests.