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Congresswoman Betty McCollum

Representing the 4th District of Minnesota

McCollum, Udall Statement on GAO Report Finding Pruitt Phone Booth Purchase Violated Federal Law

April 16, 2018
Press Release

The Government Accountability Office today responded to a request from U.S. Representative Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn.) and U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) with a finding that the Environmental Protection Agency violated federal law by purchasing a $43,000 phone booth for Administrator Scott Pruitt’s office – and then hiding that purchase from Congress.

In its report, the GAO found: “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) violated section 710 when it failed to notify the appropriations committees prior to obligating in excess of $5,000 for the installation of a soundproof privacy booth for the office of the Administrator during the period of his appointment.  Because EPA used its appropriations in a manner specifically prohibited by law, EPA violated the Antideficiency Act and should report a violation as required by 31 U.S.C. § 1351.”

“Today’s GAO report is the latest proof of the rampant corruption and misconduct at the Environmental Protection Agency under Administrator Pruitt. There are few greater examples of government waste than a $43,000 phone booth. Now we know that the purchase wasn’t just unnecessary and wasteful, but actually illegal. Worse still, this is part of a pattern of abuse of power, ethics violations, and disrespect for the rule of law by Administrator Pruitt. The American people deserve so much better than the culture of corruption, cronyism, and incompetence that is pervasive at Administrator Pruitt’s EPA. If President Trump won’t hold Administrator Pruitt accountable, Congress must,” U.S. Representative Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn.), ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies.

“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. The GAO has found that the EPA and Scott Pruitt violated federal law by hiding the purchase of the $43,000 ‘privacy booth’ built in Administrator Pruitt’s office. This is just one more example of how Scott Pruitt is blatantly breaking laws and ethics rules that protect taxpayers from government waste, fraud and abuse in order to help himself to perks and special favors – and taking deliberate steps to hide everything from Congress and taxpayers. An illegal privacy booth to conduct secret discussions with his polluter friends does nothing to help our health or environment. Scott Pruitt is behaving like Swamp emperor rather than EPA administrator – he has shown a shocking lack of regard for public health and safety, ethics and fairness, and the list of ways he has abused his office just keeps getting longer,” U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies.

The GAO report found that the Environmental Protection Agency violated Section 710 of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, 2017 (section 710) prohibits an agency from obligating an amount in excess of $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 statutory language of section 710 requires notification not only for the purchase of furniture and for aesthetic changes, but also for supplying the office with other equipment.