This is one of those stories which really should have been business as usual if it weren’t for the toxic nature of politics these days. The Inspector General’s office at the EPA has launched an investigation into spending by public officials. But in this case, the official in question is EPA boss Scott Pruitt. They’re interested in how much it’s costing the taxpayers for him to fly home to be with his family on weekends or as part of official business trips he takes.
As I said, nothing too far out of the ordinary so far. Guarding the public purse is one of many jobs of the IG and any waste, fraud or abuse which is turned up needs to be dealt with harshly no matter who is involved, holding the agency accountable to the public. But this story immediately gets sticky when you look at the players involved, the origin of the investigation and the paltry sums of money under discussion. With those tidbits factored in, this immediately begins to look like a fishing expedition. (Washington Examiner)
The move by the EPA inspector general’s office to audit the costs of agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s flights home — a fraction of the tax money House and Senate members spend going home on weekends and long recesses — is coming under fire.
Reacting to the audit announcement, Pruitt’s hometown newspaper, the Tulsa World, mocked in an editorial, “Heaven forfend! Scott Pruitt is going home on weekends!”
Allies, meanwhile, have suggested politics are at play since the Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general, Arthur A. Elkins, Jr., is a holdover from the Obama administration and was supported for the job by his senator, Maryland’s Ben Cardin, who criticized Pruitt’s nomination.
So how did all this get started? The IG office is saying that it was based on, “congressional requests and a hotline complaint.” Oh, really? Care to tell us who in Congress asked about it? Apparently not. And I’m sure that the fact that Arthur A. Elkins, Jr. (the IG) is a leftover from the Obama administration and works for Pruitt’s frequent detractor Ben Cardin has nothing to do with it. Heaven forbid we engage in such speculation.
And what sort of expenses are we talking about here? Depending who you ask it adds up to either $12,000 or $15,000 for trips covering 43 days since Pruitt took office. Yes, those figures I quoted are in the thousands of dollars, not tens or hundreds of thousands. A tally of Pruitt’s trips shows that all but one of them were trips taken for EPA business where he frequently included a trip back to Oklahoma to see his family. The Washington Examiner helpfully reminds us that the EPA chief’s tab of twelve to fifteen thousand doesn’t seem quite so striking when you compare it to the members of Congress who spend as much as $195,000 each flying home every year.
You know, I’m all for keeping tabs on what our federal officials are spending no matter which party they are from. I’d be willing to wager that there’s still a ton of waste going on which adds up to considerable amounts of money if anyone could ever put a big enough magnifying glass on it. But if we’re chasing Scott Pruitt over twelve thousand bucks in commercial air fare over this amount of time, this is more of a witch hunt than any sort of fiscal responsibility campaign.