One accusation made by former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official Kevin Chmielewski against Administrator Scott Pruitt was shown to be wrong.
Democratic lawmakers sent letters to EPA and the White House on Thursday, detailing Chmielewski’s claims Pruitt wasted taxpayer dollars and disregarded “ethical and legal requirements” of the office.
One thing Chmielewski told Democrats was that EPA was “paying leases for art on loan from the Smithsonian Institution” to furnish Pruitt’s office. Chmielewski’s also claimed Pruitt “spent well beyond the $5,000 allowed by law to decorate” his office, which included “refinishing an antique desk, purchasing an additional standing desk.”
Smithsonian Institution’s chief spokeswoman, however, told the New Republic’s Emily Atkin they don’t lease artwork to federal agencies. Spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas “we do not charge” for artwork on loan.
Atkin noted “[p]aintings and sculptures not on view in the museums are routinely loaned to members of Congress, the Supreme Court, and the White House, she said.” St. Thomas said “President Barack Obama’s EPA administrators also loaned paintings from the Smithsonian American Art Museum,” Atkin reported.
Pruitt has three paintings on loan from the Smithsonian: portraits of James Monroe and John Marshall and an 1854 landscape painting by William Louis Sonntag.
Democrats are demanding records from EPA related to accusations from Chmielewski, which they say corroborate news reports.
Pruitt is under fire for first class travel, giving close aides pay raises, renting a room from a D.C. lobbyist’s wife and sidelining staffers who challenged his spending habits. Democrats and environmentalists have called for his job.
The ethics scandals for @EPAScottPruitt keep piling up. From silencing his critics at the EPA to wasting taxpayer dollars on first-class travel and luxury office furniture, his behavior has been egregious—even for this administration. It’s time for Pruitt to resign. #BootPruitt
— Nanette D. Barragán (@RepBarragan) April 6, 2018
However, conservatives and business leaders have come to his defense, pointing out his success in rolling back Obama administration regulations. President Donald Trump has publicly praised Pruitt for his accomplishments.
Do you believe that the Fake News Media is pushing hard on a story that I am going to replace A.G. Jeff Sessions with EPA Chief Scott Pruitt, who is doing a great job but is TOTALLY under siege? Do people really believe this stuff? So much of the media is dishonest and corrupt!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 6, 2018
The EPA’s Office of Inspector General is investigating Pruitt’s actions, including his travel, as is the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.