Politics

The head of the EPA flies first class to avoid “unpleasant interactions”

Pruitt is one of several Trump officials with an expensive travel habit.

Like many of us, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt enjoys peace and quiet when he travels and jumps at the chance for a seat upgrade.

Unlike most of us, he does it with federal tax money.

The Washington Post reported this week that Pruitt once spent $1,641.63 on a first-class seat for the 90-minute flight from Washington, DC, to New York City to do a television interview about President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord. The ticket cost six times as much as the tickets for the two media aides who traveled with him in coach.

He flies regularly in first and business class while his entourage sits in coach, including for international trips he made to Italy and Morocco last year. This week, Pruitt was spotted flying first class again from DC to Boston.

The EPA has cited security as the reason Pruitt springs for more leg room, early boarding, and free drinks. Since taking office, Pruitt has surrounded himself with a 24/7 security detail, built a secret phone booth at the EPA’s headquarters, and swept his office for surveillance bugs.

Pruitt told Bloomberg that these steps were necessary because he faces “unprecedented” threats.

But David Eggert of the Associated Press reported Wednesday that Pruitt said he flies in first class because of “unpleasant interactions with other travelers.”

Expensive travel frequently trips up high-profile public employees. Government officials are typically counseled to fly with the lowest-cost airfare to be good stewards of taxpayer money (and to avoid bad optics).

But a taste for luxury flight has already taken down one Cabinet member, former health secretary Tom Price, and there are rumblings about the travel choices of others, including Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin.

Travel blogger and former Navy officer Richard Kerr noted that the “most common reason that senior [Department of Defense] officials are relieved of their duties continues to be travel fraud.”




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