Trump Cabinet Officials’ Office Renovations

President Trump campaigned on a promise to 'drain the swamp' and tackle corruption in Washington, but rather than cutting waste, Trump's cabinet has been spending taxpayer money to upgrade their own offices. From former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's secret phone booth to Ben Carson's dining set and more, American Oversight is investigating how much Trump's cabinet members have spent office makeovers.

What We’re Seeking:

  • Invoices for any purchases, or attempted purchases, for renovations or redecorations in the offices of senior political appointees.
  • Emails and other communications discussing renovations or redecorations, or potential renovations or redecorations, in the offices of senior political appointees.

Agencies Included in our Investigation are:

  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Commerce
  • Department of Defense
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Energy
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • General Services Administration
  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • Department of the Interior
  • Department of Justice
  • Department of Labor
  • Small Business Administration
  • Office of the United States Trade Representative
  • Department of Transportation
  • Department of the Treasury
  • Department of Veterans’ Affairs
  • Office of Management and Budget
  • Department of State

Background:

President Trump has proposed significant cuts to federal agency budgets for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, citing the need to decrease government spending. Public programs that help millions of American families, including nutrition assistance, educational grants, housing aid, and job training, stand to lose millions of dollars of government funding.

At the same time, officials in Trump’s own cabinet have adopted lavish spending habits, with taxpayers often footing the bill for expenses from private jets to opulent furniture. American Oversight has launched a broad investigation into cabinet secretaries’ office renovation expenses. The public deserves to know if our leaders are more concerned with giving themselves cushy offices than working to improve the lives of the American people.

In November 2017, American Oversight filed FOIA requests with 23 agencies seeking records of office renovation expenses, and December 2017, we sued the Environmental Protection agency to obtain records related to former Administrator Scott Pruitt’s office. That lawsuit uncovered documents showing that Pruitt’s secret phone booth – which had been previously reported to cost taxpayers around $25,000 – actually cost $43,000 to build and install. We also learned that Pruitt purchased a $3,000 custom-made standing desk for his office.

Following news reports of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson’s attempt to purchase a $31,000 dining set, we sued HUD for all communications related to that decision. Carson initially denied all knowledge of the purchase, but he was caught in a lie when we uncovered internal agency emails showing that both the secretary and his wife were directly involved in selecting the furniture.

We filed a broad, multi-agency lawsuit against 16 other cabinet departments, including Treasury, Commerce, and State on March 14, 2018 seeking similar records.

Updates

EPA Officials Raised Concerns about Formaldehyde… in Scott Pruitt’s Desk

July 19, 2018
New emails uncovered by American Oversight show EPA employees were concerned about the level of formaldehyde in an ornate desk that Pruitt had sought to purchase for his office.

Investigation Update: Trump’s Cabinet Spending on Office Upgrades

May 23, 2018
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.

Statement On Scott Pruitt’s Illegal Spending Spree

April 16, 2018
American Oversight released the following statement after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt broke federal spending laws when he spent $43,000 to install a soundproof phone booth in his office.
Show all updates

Related Documents

June 13, 2018

No Records Response From VA Office of Management and Finance Regarding Office Renovations

Department of Veterans Affairs
Agency Reply
April 26, 2018

Commerce Emails and Receipts Regarding Office Renovation Expenses

Department of Commerce
Agency Record
April 26, 2018

No Records Response From VA Regarding Office Renovations

Department of Veterans Affairs
Agency Reply
April 10, 2018

VA Emails and Receipts for Office Renovations

Department of Veterans Affairs
FOIA Request
April 6, 2018

EPA Administrator Pruitt Office Renovation Expenses

Environmental Protection Agency
Agency Record
March 30, 2018

FOIA to IAF Regarding Office Renovations

Inter-American Foundation
FOIA Request
March 29, 2018

USTR Receipts for Office Renovation Expenses

Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
Agency Record
March 14, 2018

No Records Response From VA Office of Enterprise Integration Regarding Renovation Expenses

Department of Veterans Affairs
Agency Reply
March 12, 2018

HUD Secretary Carson Office Renovation Expense Records

Department of Housing and Urban Development
Agency Record
March 1, 2018

FOIA Seeking Communications Related to HUD’s Public Statements About Renovations

Department of Housing and Urban Development
FOIA Request
February 28, 2018

No Records Response From ICE Regarding Renovations

Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Agency Reply
February 28, 2018

Records From SBA Regarding Office Renovations

Small Business Administration
Agency Record
February 27, 2018

Complaint: American Oversight v. HUD: Office Renovations

Department of Housing and Urban Development
Litigation
December 21, 2017

No Records Response From OSTP Regarding Office Renovations

Office of Science and Technology Policy
Agency Reply
December 14, 2017

No Records Response From DHS Regarding Office Renovations

Department of Homeland Security
Agency Reply
December 5, 2017

Complaint: American Oversight v. EPA – Office Renovations

Environmental Protection Agency
Litigation
November 30, 2017

No Records Response From SEC Regarding Office Renovations

Securities and Exchange Commission
Agency Reply
November 29, 2017

No Records Response From CEQ Regarding Office Renovations

Council on Environmental Quality
Agency Reply
November 2, 2017

FOIA to Multiple Agencies for Senior Official Office Renovation Expenses

Council on Environmental Quality, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Department of State, Department of the Interior, Department of the Treasury, Department of Transportation, Department of Veterans Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration, Office of Management and Budget, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Securities and Exchange Commission, Small Business Administration
FOIA Request