GAO: Expensive soundproof booth for EPA’s Pruitt violated federal law

GAO: Expensive soundproof booth for EPA’s Pruitt violated federal law 

Posted: 1:03 pm Monday, April 16th, 2018

By Jamie Dupree

Congressional investigators reported Monday that the installation of a soundproof communications booth in the office of Environmental Protection Administration chief Scott Pruitt violated federal law, because it spent more money than allowed by Congress for changes to the office of a Presidential appointee.

“It is time for Scott Pruitt to go,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA). “He can use the phone booth to call the movers.”

“There are few greater examples of government waste than a $43,000 phone booth,” said Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN). “Now we know that the purchase wasn’t just unnecessary and wasteful, but actually illegal.”

In a letter to Democrats in Congress, the Governmental Accountability Office said the EPA had violated what’s known as the “Antideficiency Act,” which the GAO says prohibits federal agencies from incurring obligations in excess of the amount available in an appropriation” made by Congress.

Under that law, agencies are not allowed to spend more than $5,000 for office renovations of a presidential appointee – unless the Congress gives permission.

“EPA violated the Antideficiency Act,” the GAO report stated.

“These spending laws are in place for a reason: to limit abuse of taxpayer dollars,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). “This is egregious and it’s past time for Scott Pruitt to resign.”

“Scott Pruitt likes to talk about returning the EPA to the rule of law, but it turns out he’s better at breaking it than following it,” said Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM).

The report is just the latest issue for Pruitt, who has faced a series of questions about his time as EPA chief – much of it not having anything to do with actual policy, but rather with spending.

Last week, after Democrats released details of an interview with an EPA whistleblower – who is a supporter of President Trump – Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) said his House Oversight Committee would seek interviews with a series of top aides at EPA.

In a letter to the EPA chief, Gowdy requested more background on a controverisal low-price condominium deal with an energy lobbyist, and more, saying what the EPA has turned over to investigators so far has been “insufficient to evaluate compliance with federal ethics rules.”

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