April 4, 2018
By Robert Kuttner | Apr 06, 2018
Why Scott Pruitt’s Corruption Is in a Class by Itself. There is such a blizzard of personal corruption in the Trump administration that it’s worth pausing to sort out why Scott Pruitt’s corruption is in a different category from the others. And it's quite a list: HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s $31,000 dining set, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s $139,000 doors, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s subsidized visit to Fort Knox to watch the solar eclipse, VA Secretary David Shulkin’s $122,000 travel junket to Europe, and for that matter, Pruitt’s own $107,000 in unauthorized first-class air tickets.
EPA Administrator Pruitt was directly subsidized by the wife of a prominent energy industry lobbyist. He was charged just $50 a night to stay in a Capitol Hill condo, the market value of which was far above that. The lobbyist was working for Enbridge, a company that got EPA approval in March 2017 for a lucrative pipeline deal, despite having been fined by EPA in 2010 in for violations on another pipeline.
Why would the power-couple extend Pruitt this courtesy? The ordinary word is bribe.
Even though the amount of money is smaller, Pruitt’s sin is in a different category from the misdeeds of other officials who’ve taken various perks at taxpayer expense, because it incurs a monetary favor from a lobbyist for a regulated industry. Yes, those other thefts of taxpayer money are disgusting and emblematic of the cynicism of this administration, but are more ordinary forms of corruption.
And Trump, in dispensing justice, applied his usual double standard. Shulkin, under fire from the right for defending the VA against the privatizers, got fired ostensibly for his taxpayer-financed junkets, but really for the sin of defending a public system. Carson, a pathetic excuse for a cabinet official, kept his job.
Now, in Pruitt’s case, it’s hardly surprising that neither the lobbyist nor Pruitt himself even noticed the conflict of interest—because everyone knows that he is in industry’s pocket without even having to be paid off. Pruitt’s appalling record of destroying environmental regulation is the more serious reason for firing him, but that’s what he was hired to do.
But if a relatively penny-ante payoff is what we have, let’s make the most of it. As we’ve all read, they got Al Capone for tax evasion.
Maybe they’ll get Donald Trump for tax evasion, too.