Scott Pruitt’s Soundproof Booth Violated Federal Spending Laws

While it’s hard to keep track of all the ways Scott Pruitt has wasted taxpayer money since being appointed head of the Environmental Protection Agency just a year ago, you may recall that he had a soundproof telephone booth installed in his office last fall.

Soundproof booths — also known as sensitive compartmented information facilities (SCIF) – had previously been installed in government offices. Their purpose is to prevent classified information from being leaked at, for instance, the offices of the Department of State and the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

And before Pruitt made his request, there already were two soundproof booths elsewhere in the EPA headquarters.

Pruitt is the first EPA director to have his own customized SCIF. When the Washington Post broke the story about it in September 2017, the cost to taxpayers was reported to be almost $25,000. But painting, concrete and electrical work raised the final price tag to about $43,240.

There’s a problem with that, besides Pruitt’s need to conduct secret phone conversations inside his office when other soundproof booths were available in the building.

The other big issue is that the booth violates federal spending laws, according to an eight-page report sent to Congress April 16 by Thomas H. Armstrong, general counsel of the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

This nonpartisan Congress watchdog agency investigates how the federal government spends (and misspends, in this case) taxpayer dollars.

Under section 710 of the 2017 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, government agencies are prohibited from spending more than $5,000 “to furnish, redecorate, purchase furniture for, or make improvements for the office of a presidential appointee during the period of appointment without prior notification to the appropriations committees of Congress.”

The EPA did not notify these committees before the $43,240 soundproof booth was installed in Pruitt’s office.

Furthermore, according to the GAO report, the EPA also violated the Antideficiency Act by using appropriated funds in a way that’s specifically against the law. “Because EPA did not comply with the notification requirement,” the report notes, “the funds were not legally available at the time EPA incurred the obligation.”

The EPA, of course, is denying it violated any laws. It insists the purpose of the soundproof booth was to conduct official agency business rather than to accommodate Pruitt’s individual preferences and therefore should not have been subject to the $5,000 limit.

However, as the GAO points out in its report, “This interpretation is inconsistent with the plain meaning of section 710.”

The report even includes the definition of “redecorate” from the American Heritage Dictionary: “To change the appearance or furnishings of.” Section 710 “applies not only to changes that are primarily aesthetic, but also to changes that provide a practical benefit for an office,” the report states.

So, what happens next? EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman told the Washington Post the agency “is addressing GAO’s concern, with regard to congressional notification about this expense, and will be sending Congress the necessary information.”

Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the Republican chairman of the Senate committee that oversees the EPA, said the agency owes Congress an explanation.

“EPA must give a full public accounting of this expenditure and explain why the agency thinks it was complying with the law,” Sen. Barrasso told the Associated Press.

The EPA also owes taxpayers an explanation – and a refund.

This is just the latest controversy regarding Pruitt and his flagrant misuse of taxpayer dollars for dubious personal reasons. During just two weeks in June 2017, he spent $90,000 to fly first class because he felt threatened by the “toxic environment” in coach, yet Senate Democrats recently found no record of any credible threats made against him.

Please sign this petition telling Pruitt to repay taxpayers for those expenses.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

43 comments

Marie W
Marie W11 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Christine Stewart
Christine Stewart5 months ago

what a paranoid moron!

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Jen S
Jen S6 months ago

Why isn't this greedy incompetent already under indictment?

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Ciaron Drain
Ciaron Drain6 months ago

I suppose it was appreciated by the staff as there is a limit to how much of Scott Pruit's evill laughing they could take and it is a bit of a pain for the poor secretary who has to write out mmmmmwwwwahahahahahaha in every sentence. Still, at least Donald Trump can't spell mmmmmwwwwahahahahahaha which is the upside.

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Winn A
Winn A6 months ago

Jail this moron . . . . . . . .

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Karen H
Karen H6 months ago

The GOP seems to be, "Wow! I have all this taxpayer money. How can I use it and have fun?"Sirens to get through traffic? Oh, boy! A soundproof phonebooth? Cool! Flying first class? Yeah! Dude, time to pay it all back. We're tired of you using our money.

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Karin Hanson
Karin Hanson6 months ago

Pruitt is a prime example of the "Greedy Old Predators" taking advantage of taxpayer $$$...... this idiot doesn't care about the American people or the environment, yet the WH Chief Moron supports him and won't condemn Pruitt's spending frenzy!! This really is deplorable.

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Richard A
Richard A6 months ago

What can Scott Pruitt claim as justification for his soundproof telephone booth?

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Anne M
Anne M6 months ago

He installed a soundproof telephone booth in his office ?? - If this doesn’t spell crooked,, what does ??

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Alea C
Alea C6 months ago

Trump has broken numerous laws and he's still in office, so Pruitt can rest assured, nothing will be done about this. How do we get off this horrible reality show???

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