National

Tallying Pruitt’s problematic spending

Facing more than a dozen federal inquiries scrutinizing his spending, management and ethics, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned July 5. The controversial figure had clashed with environmentalists over his efforts to reverse what he calls the EPA’s Obama-era “overreach,” and he questioned the extent to which human activity is driving climate change. In recent months, the focus turned to Pruitt’s expensive first-class travel and elaborate security costs.

Here we tally some of these line items, based on reporting by The Washington Post and the Associated Press.

$3,500,000

24/7 security detail

From his first day in office, Pruitt received 24/7 protection from a security detail roughly three times the size of his predecessor’s. Every recent administrator has received some level of security. But Pruitt’s round-the-clock coverage, which the EPA has said is necessary based on “unprecedented” threats against him, cost taxpayers about $3.5 million. That includes travel for the agents who accompany him on domestic and international trips.

24/7 security detail

$3,500,000

Total

$3,500,000

$92,700

First-class air travel

While traveling on government business, records show, Pruitt repeatedly flew first class. One round-trip flight from Washington to New York last year cost $1,641.53. Government rules allow upgrades in certain cases, such as when a flight exceeds 14 hours or when “exceptional security circumstances” mean flying coach “would endanger your life or government property.” Pruitt’s security detail had requested he sit in premium class so he could quickly board and exit planes. After his expenditures caused a public outcry this year, he said he planned to fly coach whenever possible.

24/7 security detail

$3,500,000
First-class air travel

$92,700

Total

$3,592,700

$100,000

Morocco visit

Pruitt and multiple aides made a controversial trip to Morocco in December that cost more than $100,000. The figure includes $16,217 for the administrator’s Delta Air Lines fare and the travel expenses for the aides who accompanied him. The trip was partly arranged by lobbyist Richard Smotkin, a longtime friend of Pruitt who subsequently received a lucrative contract with the Moroccan government. Those details and the purpose of the four-day trip have drawn scrutiny from lawmakers and the EPA’s inspector general.

24/7 security detail

$3,500,000
First-class air travel

$92,700
Morocco visit

$100,000

Total

$3,692,700

$10,200

High-end SUV lease

Under Pruitt, the EPA signed a lease for a new high-end Chevrolet Suburban to transport the administrator at a cost of $10,200 a year. Just months earlier, the EPA had renewed a different lease for the 2014 Chevrolet Tahoe used by Pruitt’s predecessor, for a cost of $9,180. The renewed lease was signed two weeks before Pruitt was sworn into office. Only the newer Chevy Suburban is regularly driven, according to Post reporting.

24/7 security detail

$3,500,000
First-class air travel

$92,700
Morocco visit

$100,000
High-end SUV lease

$10,200

Total

$3,702,900

$42,729

Soundproof phone booth

A soundproof phone booth was installed in Pruitt’s office so he could have private calls with White House officials and others in the administration. The booth itself cost nearly $25,000, with the construction prep work totaling another $18,000 — for a concrete slab, a drop ceiling, the removal of closed-circuit television equipment, and final painting and patching. Pruitt testified in December that the phone booth was “necessary for me to be able to do my job.” He recently told lawmakers questioning the expense that “there were not proper controls in place.”

24/7 security detail

$3,500,000
First-class air travel

$92,700
Morocco visit

$100,000
High-end SUV lease

$10,200
Soundproof phone booth

Closed-circuit TV equipment removal: $7,978

Concrete: $3,470

Drop ceiling: $3,361

Patch and paint job: $3,350

Soundproof booth: $24,570

$42,729

Total

$3,745,629

$5,657

Biometric locks

Biometric locks — which typically open by electronically scanning one’s fingerprint — were installed at Pruitt’s office. The locks were paid for in two separate installments that each amounted to less that $3,500. The costs of the extra security measure, first reported by the AP, did not appear on the government’s contracting website because only expenditures above $3,500 must be disclosed. Some other government offices use biometric locks. Critics say Pruitt’s are unnecessary because his office was already protected by several sets of locked doors and armed guards.

24/7 security detail

$3,500,000
First-class air travel

$92,700
Morocco visit

$100,000
High-end SUV lease

$10,200
Soundproof phone booth

Closed-circuit TV equipment removal: $7,978

Concrete: $3,470

Drop ceiling: $3,361

Patch and paint job: $3,350

Soundproof booth: $24,570

$42,729
Biometric locks

$5,657

Total

$3,751,286

$3,000

Office bug sweep

Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta, the agent who until early May headed Pruitt’s security detail, advised EPA officials to conduct a $3,000 “communications audit” of the administrator’s office to sweep for listening devices. The audit contract was awarded to a business associate of Perrotta, which some lawmakers say raised a red flag as to whether Perrotta complied with federal conflict-of-interest rules. Critics again questioned whether the sweep was necessary given the intense security already in place at Pruitt’s office.

24/7 security detail

$3,500,000
First-class air travel

$92,700
Morocco visit

$100,000
High-end SUV lease

$10,200
Soundproof phone booth

Closed-circuit TV equipment removal: $7,978

Concrete: $3,470

Drop ceiling: $3,361

Patch and paint job: $3,350

Soundproof booth: $24,570

$42,729
Biometric locks

$5,657
Office bug sweep

$3,000

Total

$3,754,286

When questioned about his controversial spending and management decisions before two House panels in April, Pruitt blamed his aides and the career officials who signed off on the decision. He did say he had stopped flying first class because “from an optics and perception standpoint, it was creating a distraction.”

“Those who have attacked the EPA and attacked me are doing so because they want to derail the president’s agenda. I’m not going to let that happen,” Pruitt told House members. “A lie doesn’t become true just because it appears on the front page of the newspaper.”

Reporting by Brady Dennis, Juliet Eilperin, the Associated Press. Words by Katie Mettler. Photo editing by Nick Kirkpatrick. Text editing by Susan Levine. Development by Sam Schumacher and Clare Ramirez.