Under Administrator Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency has shifted its focus from environmental stewardship to stalwart advocacy on behalf of the polluters it was created to regulate.
But while Pruitt has taken the axe to the government agency in the name of draining the swamp of government regulation, there is one swamp that Pruitt seems hell-bent on protecting at all costs: the Washington milieu wherein a bureaucrat’s clout can be directly correlated to the number of taxpayer-funded bodyguards protecting his delicate constitution.
Not since Louise Linton—the Real Housewife of the United States Treasury who swanned into America’s collective consciousness with an Instagram rant defending taxpayer-funded trips on military jets and her use of hashtags like #hermesscarf and #valentinorockstudheels—has a member of President Trump’s coterie so aggressively courted the perception that public service is a smashing opportunity for graft.
But where Linton only used her spouse’s position to build her online brand and catch the occasional $33,000 solar eclipse, Pruitt has used his position at the top of an underfunded federal agency to enjoy trappings fit for a head of state.
Documents obtained by The Daily Beast found that Pruitt spent roughly $105,000 on first-class airfare since taking over the EPA. When he wasn’t enjoying the complimentary mimosas and legroom of first-class airline cabins, Pruitt spent approximately $58,000 on private and military flights to speak in front of lobbying groups and make tight connections to Rome. Pruitt’s appetite for luxury air travel was so ravenous that aides briefly considered leasing a private jet for his use, The Washington Post reported, at a cost of roughly $100,000 per month.
Federal regulations for bureaucrats flying the friendly skies stipulate that “government travelers are required to exercise the same care in incurring expenses that a prudent person would exercise if traveling on personal business when making official travel arrangements,” which actually might explain Pruitt’s profligacy. During his tenure as Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt commuted almost daily from his 5,500-square-foot residence in Tulsa to his offices in the state capital of Oklahoma City—a 200-mile round trip—at government expense.
EPA security officials initially defended the airline expenditures as necessary for Pruitt’s protection, citing “profanities” yelled at him by strangers who may have heard about how much Pruitt’s airline tickets had cost them.
The EPA administrator’s Sun King delusions have extended far beyond the Delta Sky Club, however. On terra firma, Pruitt ordered, at a cost of $43,000, the installation of a soundproof phone booth at EPA headquarters for his use, in addition to spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on anti-surveillance sweeps of his office.
Pruitt has also requested a bulletproof vehicle and a 20-person protective detail, according to The New York Times, having apparently mistaken the position of EPA administrator for that of Beyoncé. His current retinue of bodyguards have traveled with him to his home in Tulsa, as well as to a family vacation to Disneyland.
At least five EPA officials have reportedly been reassigned, demoted, or requested new jobs after they raised concerns about Pruitt’s spending and management style. Their concerns included Pruitt’s demand that his bodyguards use the lights and sirens equipped on his government sedan to beat D.C. traffic snarls on his way to dinner at Le Diplomate, a francophone Buca di Beppo popular with hungover D.C. gays and the kind of people who crane their necks to see whether Ivanka Trump ordered the moules frites or the trout amandine.
After a public backlash comparing her to ill-fated French queens, Linton has been waging a charm offensive, acquiescing to a soft-focus Washingtonian profile that pondered whether society doyennes hadn’t been a little harsh in their condemnations.
Pruitt, meanwhile, seeks the approval of only one man: his boss, who has reportedly floated promoting Pruitt to attorney general as recently as this week.
“I think he’s done a fantastic job,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday, asked about Pruitt’s future in his administration. “I think he’s done an incredible job. He’s been very courageous. It hasn’t been easy, but I think he’s done a fantastic job.”