- House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican, said he’s troubled by recent reports of EPA chief Scott Pruitt’s unprecedented spending on his personal security and luxury travel.
- Gowdy argued that Pruitt’s first-class plane tickets, which Pruitt argues protect him from potentially dangerous passengers, is both ethically questionable and counter-productive.
- “You need to go into another line of work if you don’t want people to be mean to you,” Gowdy said.
House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican, said he’s troubled by recent reports of Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt’s unprecedented spending of taxpayer funds on his personal security, first-class travel, and luxury hotels.
During an interview on Fox News Sunday, Gowdy questioned both the appropriateness of Pruitt’s choices and the credibility of his explanations.
While Pruitt has cited unspecified security concerns resulting from a “toxic” political environment to justify his first-class plane tickets (which are only allowed for government employees in special circumstances), the congressman argued that Pruitt’s positioning at the front of the plane would put him in contact with more passengers then a seat at the back of the plane.
If the EPA chief was genuinely concerned with his exposure to potentially dangerous passengers, he would choose to sit at the very back of the plane, Gowdy argued.
“If you really want to avoid people on the plane, sit in the last seat not the first seat,” he said.
Gowdy added that he would be “shocked” if many members of the general public even knew who Pruitt was, but that, as a government official, Pruitt should be prepared to take criticism from the public.
“The notion that I’ve got to fly first class because I don’t want people to be mean to me, you need to go into another line of work if you don’t want people to be mean to you,” he said, joking that Pruitt should become a monk in order to avoid interacting with anyone.
On Friday, Gowdy expanded his committee’s investigation into Pruitt’s travel and security practices and requested interviews with several of the administrator’s top aides. This comes a day after Gowdy’s staff met with a former EPA aide, Kevin Chmielewski.
Chmielewski, who was reportedly fired from his post over his objections to some of his boss’s requests, said that Pruitt made frequent trips back to Oklahoma, where he owns a home and would spend weekends, using taxpayer funds.
Multiple recent media reports have found that Pruitt regularly spends thousands of taxpayer dollars on domestic and international airfare and luxury hotels for trips that are often not entirely relevant to his work as a Cabinet official.
The former Oklahoma attorney general spent more than $1,600 on a first-class plane ticket from Washington to New York last June in order to make two brief television appearances to promote the president’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. Pruitt’s ticket cost six times more than the coach seats purchased for Pruitt’s two aides on the same flight.
Just a few weeks prior, Pruitt spent about $2,900 on a flight to Colorado Springs to deliver the keynote address at a conservative think tank meeting. The controversial EPA chief also travels with a much larger security detail than his predecessors.
Pruitt and his top aides spent $90,000 for travel in the first weeks of June alone, according to receipts obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project through a Freedom of Information Act request.