Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Trump's Guy

Of course they did.

TIME last week had reported

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency paid just $50 a night to stay in a Capitol Hill condominium linked to a prominent Washington lobbyist whose firm represents a roster of fossil fuel companies.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt paid for a single bedroom in the building on a leafy street about a block from the U.S. Capitol, staying for about six months in 2017 during nights he was in Washington. Records show three units inside the building are listed as belonging to a corporation co-owned by the wife of J. Steven Hart, the chairman and CEO of the powerhouse lobbying firm Williams and Jensen PLLC.

The firm’s clients include Exxon Mobil Corp. and the major liquefied natural gas exporter Cheniere Energy Inc. — companies that have billions at stake in regulatory decisions over which Pruitt presides. Records show in at least one case Pruitt met in his EPA office with a lobbyist from Hart’s firm while he was renting the room.

Justina Fugh, an ethics lawyer at EPA, told The Associated Press on Friday Pruitt’s rental agreement allowed him to only pay for nights he occupied the room, totaling about $6,000 in payments over the term of the lease.

Now we learn that in early March, Pruitt requested a salary increase for two aides he had brought from Oklahoma: Sarah Greenwalt, from $107,435 to $164,200; and Millan Hupp, from $86,460 to $114,590. However, he needed approval from the White House because they were political appointees, and the Presidential Personnel Office dismissed the application and the White House refused to overrule it.

But now Pruitt has approved the 53% and the 33% raises because, The Atlantic explains

A provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act allows the EPA administrator to hire up to 30 people into the agency, without White House or congressional approval. The provision, meant to help expedite the hiring of experts and allow for more flexible staffing, became law in 1996. In past administrations, it has been used to hire specialists into custom-made roles in especially stressed offices, according to Bob Perciasepe, a former acting EPA administrator.

These aren't Pruitt's only indiscretions. Vox's Umair Irfan notes that the Administrator spent $168,000 of taxpayer funds on air travel- additional for first-class hotels- in his first year in office, traveling with his entourage for media appearances and recreation, as well as for legitimate EPA business.  He spent $3,000 to sweep his office for survellance bugs, $2,000 for biometric locks with fingerprint readers, and $42,000 to build a phone booth in his office. Maxwell Smart would have been proud.

Pruitt flies charter- often- to and from Oklahoma, where as Attorney General he sued the EPA 13 times and often sent (under his own signature) the EPA, Interior, and President Obama letters written by the energy industry.

That made him the ideal appointee to head Donald Trump's EPA.   And as Administrator, he "continues to run the score up for Trump," pursing Trump's agenda of shoving as much money to corporations, especially the fossil fuel industry, as possible.

Although this probably is the primary reason he isn't fired by the President- or, rather, by Chief of Staff Kelly because Trump can't fire anyone in person- there may be another factor at work. In this Administration, no one can sneeze without hitting ethically deficient members. The latter include at least Jeff Sessions (probably least of all), Treasury's Mnuchin, HUD's Carson, Interior's Zinke, Education's DeVos, Ambassador Haley, Ivanka Trump, and Kellyanne Conway. (Jared Kushner, probably collaborating with a foreign power, is a whole different kettle of fish.) "An inner circle unburdened by legal or moral scruples," Jonathan Chait observes, "are the only kind of people who want to work for Trump, and the only kind Trump wants to wrok for him."

But Scott Pruitt stands out. Perhaps it's the extent of his corruption. Or mFaybe it's because he's so sensitive that he flies first class to avoid critics, revealing a snowflake (with regrets at using a term popularized by the alternative right) like Donald Trump. He's a guy who skirts the rules (as with the recent pay raises) or breaks the rules and he's still riding high, still a winner. He's a lot like the boss.

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