The Washington Post reported on Friday afternoon that EPA official Scott Pruitt spent $3,230 on a dozen pens and personalized journals.
On August 14, 2017, an EPA staff member working with the store selling the pens and paper emailed Millan Hupp, Pruitt's head of scheduling. He informed Hupp that the fountain pens would price at around $1,560.00 and that other items, consisting of personalized journals, will add up to $1,670.00.
“Yes, please order,” Hupp responded later that day. “Thank you.”
This exchange was included among thousands of pages of emails released this week as required by a lawsuit by the Sierra Club. These emails shed light on yet another episode of expensive tastes by top EPA leaders. This comes after scrutiny over expenditures of taxpayer money on first-class travel, an expensive security detail, a $43,000 phone booth, expensive vehicles and other expensive office upgrades.
In recent weeks, Pruitt has blamed some of the questionable expenditures on the agency's rank and file, claiming that he generally plays no role in decisions to spend money on travel or supplies.
And indeed, this is probably true. It is unlikely that a person of Scott's status within the agency makes decisions about things and small as ordering fountain pens, regardless of how expensive they may be. On top of that, in order to prevent things like this from happening, Pruitt instituted a change requiring that any expense over $5,000 related to his duties be approved by top agency officials.
“I’m having to answer questions about decisions that others made. And that’s not an excuse, it’s just reality," he said, explaining why he was making this change, according to the Washington Post.
The problem of high-level officials and staffers spending extravagant sums of money given to them by taxpayers isn't only a problem in the Trump administration. It has long been, and will likely continue to be, a problem of virtually all administrations.
Many people have defended some of Pruitt's purchases, too. The National Review, for instance, claims that all of Pruitt's four noncommercial flights seemed justified.
EPA spokeswoman Johan Wilcox, addressing an earlier scandal about driving in expensive planes, remarked that Pruit had a reason for the occasionally expensive plane trips.
Pruit had a priority of visiting “cities, towns and states across the country hearing from Americans that were ignored by the past Administration.” That’s why he’s traveled to remote parts of the country. But Wilcox says “it is our policy to always fly commercial,” and in the “few instances that dictated otherwise . . . the decision to fly private or government aircraft was made based on necessity or efficiency.
Many believe that the negative media coverage of Pruitt is a way of discrediting the EPA under the Trump administration, especially as it seeks to overturn the majority of regulations and laws passed by the Obama administration.
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