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 on office makeovers.

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

News Roundup: Hear No Evil, See No Evil

January 31, 2020
The White House’s stonewall is crumbling, the truth will come out, and votes to prematurely end the Senate’s impeachment trial will look increasingly worse.

Ben Carson Faces Questions on PBS NewsHour About Frequent Travel and Attempted Dining Set Purchase

March 20, 2019
HUD Secretary Ben Carson appeared on PBS NewsHour and had to answer questions about records we uncovered — including calendars showing multiple long weekends in Florida and emails about his $31,000 dining set.

How FEMA Learned from Ben Carson’s $31,000 Dining Set Purchase

December 20, 2018
The public outcry over HUD Secretary Carson’s office furniture likely dissuaded FEMA officials from similar spending sprees.
Show all updates

Related Documents

May 5, 2020

FOIA to State Seeking Records Related to Any Office Renovations by Ambassador Lana Marks

Department of State
FOIA Request
January 29, 2020

FOIA to HHS and CMS Seeking CMS Administrator Verma’s Reimbursements

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
December 20, 2019

FOIA to State Department Seeking Renovation Expenses for Ambassadors

Department of State
FOIA Request
December 9, 2019

FEMA Records Related to Office Renovations

Department of Homeland Security, DHS - Federal Emergency Management Agency
Agency Record
May 29, 2019

HUD Secretary Carson Office Renovation Expense Records

Department of Housing and Urban Development
Agency Record
May 2, 2019

FOIA to State Seeking Records Regarding Office Renovation Expenditures

Department of State
FOIA Request
March 19, 2019

DOL Records Regarding Office Renovation Expenses

Department of Labor
Agency Record
February 22, 2019

State Records Related to Office Renovation Expenditures

Department of State
Agency Record
December 20, 2018

Department of Energy Office Renovation Expenses

Department of Energy
Agency Record
December 18, 2018

Commerce Emails and Receipts Regarding Office Renovation Expenses

Department of Commerce
Agency Record
December 17, 2018

EPA Administrator Pruitt Office Renovation Expenses

Environmental Protection Agency
Agency Record
November 20, 2018

FEMA Communications and Projected Expenses for Office Renovations

DHS - Federal Emergency Management Agency
Agency Record
November 13, 2018

No Records Response From VA Regarding Office Renovations

Department of Veterans Affairs
Agency Reply
November 8, 2018

HHS Records Regarding Office Renovations

Department of Health and Human Services
Agency Record
October 19, 2018

USDA Office Renovation Expenses

Department of Agriculture
Agency Record
October 17, 2018

FOIA to FEMA Seeking Office Renovation Records

DHS - Federal Emergency Management Agency
FOIA Request
October 11, 2018

Treasury Records Regarding Office Renovations

Department of the Treasury
Agency Record
October 5, 2018

Department of Transportation Office Renovation Records

Department of Transportation
Agency Record
September 29, 2018

Interior Emails Regarding Office Renovations and Decorations

Department of the Interior
Agency Record
September 27, 2018

Inter-American Foundation Office Renovation Records

Inter-American Foundation
September 7, 2018

NCUA Records Regarding Office Renovations

National Credit Union Administration
August 24, 2018

DOD Office Renovation Expenses

Department of Defense
Agency Record
July 20, 2018

No Records Response From ICE Regarding Renovations

Department of Homeland Security, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Agency Reply
July 20, 2018

VA Emails and Receipts for Office Renovations

Department of Veterans Affairs
Agency Record
June 13, 2018

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

Department of Veterans Affairs
Agency Reply
May 17, 2018

FOIA to NCUA Seeking Chairman McWatters’ Office Renovations

National Credit Union Administration
FOIA Request
May 11, 2018

OMB Office Renovation Expenses

White House - Office of Management and Budget
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

White House - 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 4, 2018

DOJ Records Regarding Office Renovations

Department of Justice
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

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

White House - 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

White House - Council on Environmental Quality
Agency Reply
November 2, 2017

FOIA to Multiple Agencies for Senior Official Office Renovation Expenses

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, Securities and Exchange Commission, Small Business Administration, White House - Council on Environmental Quality, White House - Office of Management and Budget, White House - Office of Science and Technology Policy, White House - Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
FOIA Request