A watchdog group suggests that EPA chief Scott Pruitt is spending an awful lot of time in his home state of Oklahoma. The Environmental Integrity Project, which was created by former EPA officials, took a look at Pruitt's travel records from March to May and discovered that he spent 43 out of 92 days either in Oklahoma or traveling there, reports the New York Times. Critics say it fits with a narrative that Pruitt plans another run for office, perhaps as governor or senator, and is cultivating political ties in his home state, reports Reuters. An EPA spokesperson disputes that, saying that "Administrator Pruitt works long hours and is available around the clock," she says. "He is extremely focused and disciplined, which is evident by the fact that he spearheaded over two dozen significant regulatory actions since being sworn in."
The report shows that Pruitt traveled home 10 times over the three-month span, generally for long weekends. On some of those trips, he picked up a portion of the travel costs himself, though the Times frames the costs as being "largely at taxpayer expense." In all, his federal travel expenses totaled $12,000. The EIP says it sought the records after fielding complaints that it was difficult to arrange meetings with Pruitt in Washington, DC, because he was so rarely there. "The American people aren't paying taxes for part-time Cabinet officials," says Liz Purchia Gannon, who served as spokeswoman for former Obama EPA chief Gina McCarthy. The report shows that Pruitt would sometimes stay in Oklahoma three to five days, though he had only one official meeting on his schedule. Pruitt's appointment to the EPA was controversial because he frequently sued the agency as Oklahoma's AG.