Government Watchdog Says EPA Broke Law With Pruitt Phone Booth

Government Watchdog Says EPA Broke Law With Pruitt Phone Booth

The agency spent $43,000 for installing the privacy booth in Pruitt's office, one of a number of expenditures for which the administrator is under scrutiny from Congress. But the Government Accountability Office reported Monday that the agency's failure to report the purchase to Congress violated a law that puts a $5,000 cap on office improvements.

The GAO-which is the federal government's independent watchdog-also found that the EPA allocated the funds in a way that violated a second federal law, the Antideficiency Act.

EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said the agency is "addressing GAO's concern, with regard to congressional notification about this expense, and will be sending Congress the necessary information this week".

Pruitt told congressional investigators that the phone booth was needed to make secure calls to the White House and other federal agencies and is standing by the cost to install the booth.

But Barrasso said in a statement after the GAO's decision that Pruitt's agency must give a "full public accounting" on the spending on the booth and explain why the agency thinks it was complying with the law.


Pruitt has faced growing criticism and angry questioning from Democratic and Republican lawmakers over his spending habits.

Gowdy then asked for seven sets of documents, including travel records for Pasquale "Nino" Perrotta, the head of Pruitt's personal security detail; records related to Pruitt's June 2017 trip to Italy, including the hiring of a private Italian security firm; records related to Pruitt's December 2017 trip to Morocco; and documents to help identify the EPA official who determined that Pruitt's around-the-clock security protection was warranted.

Still, the EPA swears that Pruitt's lavish spending is no big deal. Last week, a group of House and Senate Democrats published a detailed list of allegations suggesting mismanagement and lavish spending by Pruitt and his office. Jackson approved them using the authority granted under an obscure provision in a clean water law, the documents said.

"The notion that I've got to fly first class because I don't want people to be mean to me ― you need to go into another line of work if you don't want people to be mean to you", Gowdy said on Fox News. "It shouldn't have been done", he said.

Jahan Wilcox, EPA spokesman, said the agency had "responded to Chairman Gowdy's inquiries and we will continue to work with him".

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