The current administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt, has had a bad week. A new ABC news report, has revealed that last year, Pruitt rented a luxury condo in Washington DC from an energy industry lobbyist for only $50 a night.
Later, it was discovered that while Pruitt rented this condo, he threw no less than three GOP fundraisers in it. At the same time, Pruitt's agency also approved a Canadian company's pipeline expansion – a company that is suspiciously linked to the lobbyist's firm.
In the past, the very same lobbyist has also helped fund Pruitt's political campaigns, including his Oklahoma Attorney General campaign.
Using an obscure loophole in the Safe Drinking Water Act, Pruitt gave the aides who helped find the condo a hefty and unauthorized pay raise.
If the condo's suspiciously low rate was given to Pruitt by the lobbyist for any reason other than a solely personal one, the EPA administrator would be in violation of government ethics rules.
And while the intent of the gift remains unclear, government ethics rules also state that "it is never inappropriate and frequently prudent for an employee to decline a gift if acceptance would cause a reasonable person to question the employee's integrity or impartiality."
For some, this is the last straw. Over the past year, Pruitt's leadership at the EPA has been shrouded in scandals - including his close relationships with industry experts, his penchant for $90,000-worth of first class travel and the paranoid installation of his private, soundproof phone booth.
In the past week, several environmental organizations have joined forces to "Boot Pruitt", and around twenty members of Congress have demanded that the EPA chief step down – including two Republicans.
Republican Representative Carlos Curbelo was the first to ask for Pruitt to step down and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen seconded the call soon after.
Major policy differences aside, @EPAScottPruitt's corruption scandals are an embarrassment to the Administration, and his conduct is grossly disrespectful to American taxpayers. It's time for him to resign or for @POTUS to dismiss him. https://t.co/gXWLDffqam— Rep. Carlos Curbelo (@RepCurbelo) April 3, 2018
In the past day, online criticism for the administrator's "unethical" actions has piled on.
Still more evidence of EPA Administrator Pruitt's true priorities. His tax-payer funded "listening tour" last year included closed door meetings with lobbyists which excluded all public participation. Independent scientists are dismissed too. #BootPruitt https://t.co/7rWtWZhLnQ— Rep. Alan Lowenthal (@RepLowenthal) April 3, 2018
Scott Pruitt used the Safe Drinking Water Act, not to protect Americans' clean water, but to defy the White House's rejection of his request to give his favorite aides tens of thousands of dollars in raises.— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) April 3, 2018
Now he's under investigation for it by the EPA's Inspector General. https://t.co/TTYEGwCHv4
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has to go.— Earl Blumenauer (@repblumenauer) March 28, 2018
He has failed to protect your health, failed to safeguard the environment, and failed to follow the law. He is unfit to lead the EPA. #BootPruitt
As EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt has undermined climate and public health protections, jeopardized the health of communities of color, and wasted taxpayer $$ on luxury travel. It's time to #BootPruitt #LetusBreathehttps://t.co/0cr08mXVuI— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) March 28, 2018
Even the former White House ethics czar under the Bush administration condemned Pruitt's actions.
"Find me a hotel room in Washington, D.C. for $50 a night and tell me that's not a gift from a lobbyist," said Richard Painter.
"This is disgusting and no decent ethics lawyer would sign off on that. If that had happened in the Bush administration, I would have shut it down in a minute."
Obama's ethics lawyer concurred.
This is a serious violation of ethics law incl. 5 CFR 2635.202, Pruitt apparently had room on demand, yet paid below market rent and only for nights when he stayed there? Trump admin has broken so many laws they are more like a RICO conspiracy than a govmt https://t.co/1EQTB42mUG— Norm Eisen (@NormEisen) March 30, 2018
Never mind the public outcry, several major news outlets have reported that both President Trump and Chief of Staff John Kelly have given Pruitt their undying support.
NEW: President Trump called Administrator Pruitt last night and said "Keep your head up, keep fighting. We have your back," per administration official.— Jacqueline Alemany (@JaxAlemany) April 3, 2018
COS Kelly called Pruitt this morning and reiterated POTUS' message.
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