EPA to Probe Chief Pruitt's Security Spending on Personal Trips

(Bloomberg) -- The EPA’s internal watchdog will investigate the around-the-clock security protection for Administrator Scott Pruitt including the possibility bodyguards accompanied him to Disneyland and the Rose Bowl, in adding to at least four other probes into Pruitt and his staff.

Environmental Protection Agency Inspector General Arthur Elkins confirmed he was opening the probe in a letter to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, the Democrat who asked for the investigation.

“While I consider matters of personal security to be extremely serious, personal security should never be used as a pretext to obtain special treatment," Whitehouse, of Rhode Island, said in a news release and his original request.

Whitehouse asked the inspector general to probe whether Pruitt flew first class even when traveling on personal business -- and if his bodyguards were seated there too. In addition, he pressed for an investigation into whether the government paid for tickets for the security detail to join Pruitt during personal trips to the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 and Disneyland over the following two days.

Pruitt is already under investigation for his unorthodox $50-per-night rental of a Capitol Hill bedroom from a lobbyist, frequent travel to his home state of Oklahoma and what one former aide has described as a practice of retribution against employees who challenge the administrator.

EPA officials have defended Pruitt’s 24/7 security protection and his previous use of first-class travel, saying it was necessary amid escalated threats. Pruitt’s long history challenging the agency he now leads and his current work to roll back some Obama-era environmental rules have made him a target for criticism.

At least 19 agents guard the EPA chief day and night, and the number may be higher depending on travel and other needs.

The White House budget office is scrutinizing whether the EPA violated spending laws by authorizing the construction and purchase of a $43,000 soundproof phone booth without first notifying Congress, and lawmakers are investigating Pruitt’s travel.

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