The Scott Pruitt corruption saga continues in Washington. After coming under fire in the press and in Congress, the last thing the EPA chief needed was a new scandal. But in today’s Washington Post there is a front page story that will make both Pruitt and his boss Donald Trump very unhappy.
The article’s headline reads “Lobbyist helped arrange Scott Pruitt’s $100,000 trip to Morocco” and the story is about a possibly illegal quid pro quo where the lobbyist received favorable treatment in exchange for what he gave Pruitt.
What people want to know is (1) why did a four-day trip cost so much, and (2) why did Pruitt even take the trip, since it had nothing to do with his job as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency? As it turns out, the lobbyist obtained a lucrative contract from the government of Morocco shortly after the trip, and this may explain why it occurred.
According to the Post:
“A controversial trip to Morocco by Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt last December was partly arranged by a longtime friend and lobbyist, who accompanied Pruitt and his entourage at multiple stops and served as an informal liaison at both official and social events during the visit.
Richard Smotkin, a former Comcast lobbyist who has known the EPA administrator for years, worked for months with Pruitt’s aides to hammer out logistics, according to four individuals familiar with those preparations. In April, Smotkin won a $40,000-a-month contract, retroactive to Jan. 1, with the Moroccan government to promote the kingdom’s cultural and economic interests. He recently registered as a foreign agent representing that government.
The four-day journey has drawn scrutiny from lawmakers and the EPA’s inspector general, who is investigating its high costs and whether it adhered to the agency’s mission to “protect human health and the environment.”
Information obtained by The Washington Post shows the visit’s cost exceeded $100,000, more than twice what has been previously reported. He was accompanied by eight staffers and his round-the-clock security detail.
Smotkin’s role in arranging the whirlwind visit raises many questions. Federal laws prohibit public officials from using government resources to financially benefit friends, relatives or other people with whom they have personal connections.”
So in other words, it appears that Pruitt used government funds to pay for a trip that was excessive and unnecessary, and the only apparent purpose was to benefit his lobbyist friend. If this can be proven, it may be another crime committed by Pruitt.
He is already under attack for the possible crime of lying to Congress.
The EPA announced that the trip was necessary to negotiate a trade deal and that they were not aware that Smotkin was negotiating a business deal with Morocco.
The trip is just one more thing being scrutinized by Congress and the EPA’s inspector general.
Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) grilled Pruitt during hearings where he had to face his critics in the House of Representatives. She asked him why he was spending his time as EPA chief promoting the benefits of U.S. liquefied natural gas imports for Morocco’s economy, instead of protecting the environment.
“I can’t, for the life of me, imagine why an EPA administrator would be over there promoting energy sales,” Pingree said. “We have a Department of Energy. You should be thinking much more about some of the challenges with [liquefied natural gas], and why you would be on the other side.”
Just like President Trump, Pruitt sees his job not as a way to serve the American people or the country, but as an opportunity to take advantage of his government position for his own personal benefit. And like Trump, Pruitt has overstayed his welcome in Washington. It is high time that both of them leave.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.