WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, under fire from lawmakers for travel and security expenses, spent about $45,000 in government money to fly five people to #Australia to prepare for a planned trip that was later canceled.
Two of his aides and three security agents flew to Australia last August on business-class tickets costing roughly $9,000 each to set up meetings for the EPA administrator.
The purchase of business-class tickets was not a violation of U.S. government policy, which allows federal employees to travel business class on trips lasting 14 hours or more.
But the spending on a five-person “advance” team for the Australia trip, revealed by U.S. officials who spoke to Reuters, comes as Pruitt faces scrutiny over his own frequent first-class travel and spending on such items as a 24-hour security detail.
The White House budget office has said it is investigating whether a $43,000 soundproof phone booth installed for Pruitt in his office at EPA headquarters violated the law.
The Republican-led House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is looking into Pruitt’s travel and security arrangements. Pruitt also has drawn criticism over his rental of a room in a Washington condominium owned by an energy lobbyist’s wife.
Democrats have pointed to Pruitt’s spending to excoriate President Donald Trump over his campaign pledge to “drain the swamp” in Washington. They contend Trump has done the opposite.