Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt is becoming the Kanye West of Donald Trump’s Cabinet, and that’s because he can’t keep his name out of the press. Currently, Pruitt is facing at least 11 federal investigations into his lavish spending and possible kickbacks, including a sweetheart deal that allowed him the use of a Capitol Hill condo for a mere $50 a night—0h, and the condo just happens to be owned by the wife of an energy lobbyist. Then there is the money that he’s spent on security and lavish office furnishings, not to mention the sidestepping of government approval to get raises for his staff.
Now it looks as if a $100,000 trip to Morocco last year that turned out to be twice the initial planned budget was planned by a lobbyist friend.
According to reports in the New York Times and the Washington Post, Richard Smotkin, a former Comcast lobbyist who has known Pruitt for many years, arranged portions of the EPA chief’s costly trip to Morocco in December. But that isn’t all; Smotkin not only helped arrange several meetings during the trip to promote the country’s “cultural and economic interests,” but was reportedly also at or near Pruitt’s side the entire time and served as “an informal liaison at both official and social events.”
The EPA claims that Smotkin attended a few meetings with Pruitt but tried to downplay his role on the trip.
“EPA’s Office of International and Tribal Affairs organized and led the effort around Administrator Pruitt’s official meetings with the Moroccan government,” EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said in a statement Tuesday, according to the Times. “Additionally, Mr. Smotkin did not attend or participate in any official meetings with the Moroccan government.”
The bigger question isn’t whether Smotkin was involved—which, according to the EPA, he was—but why. Why is someone outside the government arranging meetings for a Cabinet official with outside interests? Why is Smotkin there in the first place? Smotkin is looking and sounding like 1990s Puff Daddy, where he can’t just stay behind the boards and produce; he’s got to be “all in the videos” [Suge Knight voice].
And get this: Shortly after Pruitt’s visit, Smotkin signed a $40,000-a-month lobbying contract (pdf) with the Moroccan government to help sell the country as a filmmaking and “world-class golf destination.”
“It shows, at the very least, a tremendous amount of sloppiness, and it raises ethical issues about the relationship between Smotkin and Pruitt,” Larry Noble, senior director of the Campaign Legal Center, told the Post. “If Pruitt did this to benefit Smotkin and did this to show that Smotkin has an in with the EPA administrator, then he’s using his official office to benefit a private person.”
Meanwhile, Pruitt is out here buying Moroccan gold rings for every one of his fingers and walking through the White House like Trinidad James.
Below is video footage of Pruitt stuntin’ on ’em after returning from Morocco.