Investigation Update: Trump’s Cabinet Spending on Office Upgrades

As Trump cabinet officials including EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson have cut programs and staff positions in the government departments they manage, they have spent lavishly on their own offices, using taxpayer dollars to pay for expensive furniture and other upgrades.

Pruitt and Carson might not be the only appointees with costly spending habits. American Oversight has been investigating office renovation spending by senior officials across the Trump administration. Last November, we filed FOIA requests with 23 agencies seeking renovation records and we later filed a lawsuit against 16 agencies in order to demand the release of those documents.

The public has the right to know how their money is being spent – and the records we’ve uncovered have helped to expose the truth. Although it was originally reported that Pruitt’s secret phone booth cost $25,000, records we obtained via FOIA litigation show that the actual cost of installation was $43,000. We also learned that Pruitt purchased a $3,000 custom-made standing desk for his office.

Carson initially tried to blame his wife for the attempted purchase of a $31,000 dining set for his office suite at HUD – which would be deeply problematic for other reasons – but emails we uncovered from HUD employees showed that both the Secretary and his wife were aware of the purchase.

Cabinet officials are prohibited from spending more than $5,000 to furnish their offices without first notifying Congress – and it was clear from the documents we obtained that both Pruitt and Carson knew the limits and chose to disregard the law anyway.

Our investigation also found examples of agencies following the rules and staying within their budgets. Records that we received from the Department of Commerce showed that the department stayed within spending guidelines when buying new furniture for Secretary Ross’ office.

You can see our full investigation into cabinet officials office renovations here. The records and the other responses we’ve received are linked below.