Roosevelt Institute | Cornell University

It is Time to Blow the Whistle on Pruitt

By Keelin KellyPublished April 30, 2018

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Pruitt's questionable behaviors and ethical violations fundamentally violate the spirit of environmentalism, demonstrate his invariable character flaws, and emphasizes that he is unfit for his current position.
Pruitt's questionable behaviors and ethical violations fundamentally violate the spirit of environmentalism, demonstrate his invariable character flaws, and emphasizes that he is unfit for his current position.

What is your tax money used for? E.P.A. Administrator Scott Pruitt just spent your tax-payer dollars on a $43,000 secure phone booth. He also spent $40,000 on a trip to Morocco promoting natural gas exports; a trip that does not fall within the realm of the E.P.A. Administrator's duties. His security staff has at least 20 people, which is more than three times as large as previous E.P.A. secretaries.

Not surprisingly, it is his questionable ethics that have made the headlines, not the fact that he continues to roll back important environmental protections in favor of the fossil-fuel industry. Pruitt championed President Trump's exit from the Paris Agreement, making it clear to every nation in the world that under this administration, climate change is not acknowledged as legitimate. However, overshadowing the numerous rollbacks and failure to uphold the mission of the E.P.A., it's the phone booths and plane rides that anger the American public more than his actual incompetent performance as Administrator of the E.P.A.

In addition to showing selfishness, ignorance, and an enormous ego, Pruitt's excessive and irresponsible spending habits violate the spirit of environmentalism and the fight against climate change, the mission of the administration he swore to protect. Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day quoted "The ultimate test of man's conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard". Administrator Pruitt might consider looking at his own webpage and take a lesson from this sentiment, that personal sacrifice and simplicity are at the heart of environmentalism.

Abstaining from vanity and over-consumption are concepts that have been encouraged by every famous environmentalist. Mohandas Gandhi said "Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed". The E.P.A. should promote and encourage this crucial message, as it fundamentally supports the spirit of environmentalism. To acknowledge scarcity and recognize that our earth is finite is something that the Environmental Protection Agency should acknowledge is an important step towards environmental justice. Yet, Administrator Pruitt's reckless and excessive spending and flight schedule not only shows that his policies not align with the mission statement of the E.P.A., but his ethical choices fundamentally violate environmentalism.

In light of Pruitt's disservice to the Environmental Protection Agency, both through his scathing rollbacks and his embarrassing ethical violations, it is our job as Americans to encourage the President and Congress to take action on this matter. Senator Thomas R. Carper and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse wrote a letter to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, encouraging them to remind the E.P.A. of their duties under the Whistleblowers Protection Act. The Whistleblower Protection Act is violated if a federal agency "takes or fails to take a personnel action with respect to any employee or applicant because of any disclosure of information by the employee or applicant that he or she reasonably believes evidences a violation of a law, rule or regulation; gross mismanagement; gross waste of funds; an abuse of authority; or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety."

In review of the gross amount of tax-payer funds Administrator Pruitt has spent so far, the Whistleblower Protection Act comes to the forefront as the White House grapples how to justify Pruitt's continued waste as E.P.A. Administrator. An E.P.A. employee must blow the whistle on Pruitt. His ethical violations are not only illegal, but violate the mission of the administration he swore to lead.