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.