Taxpayers have spent nearly $3.5 million on Scott Pruitt’s security detail over the past year, far exceeding the cost of protecting his predecessors, according to figures released by the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday.
The hefty security budget comprised $2,726,719 in wages for the 19 agents protecting the scandal-scarred EPA administrator around the clock and $763,000 on their travel expenses, the records show.
The actual taxpayer-funded security tally might be even higher, because the records released Friday do not account for training, equipment and vehicle costs.
Pruitt has faced scrutiny for what critics have blasted as an overzealous and paranoid demand for beefed-up security.
Pruitt’s defenders say the high security costs are justified because he has faced an unprecedented number of death threats.
But internal documents reviewed by members of Congress have put those claims into question, as the severity and credibility of many of the threats were moot, including social media posts and skeptic comments from airplane passengers.
Security costs for previous EPA administrators have been far lower.
During Obama-era EPA chief Gina McCarthy’s final year in office, the security costs were about half of Pruitt’s, with $1.4 million for salaries and $312,000 for travel, records show.
EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox maintained Friday that Pruitt’s unprecedented security costs were warranted because of the threats he has faced.
“Americans should all agree that members of the President’s cabinet should be kept safe from violent threats,” Wilcox said in a statement.
Pruitt’s outsized security spending has landed him in trouble with the EPA inspector general who has launched two concurrent investigations into the matter.
Pruitt has dedicated his tenure at the EPA to reversing Obama-era measures meant to combat climate change, drawing sharp rebuke from the scientific community.
He’s also facing flak over a dizzying number of ethical scandals involving pricey taxpayer-funded travel and accommodation.