Skip to main content

A Watchdog Group Sues 16 Federal Agencies for Records of Office Upgrade Expenses

American Oversight, a liberal watchdog group, filed a lawsuit Wednesday against 16 federal agencies for failing to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests made in November.

The legal oversight group is seeking records of "actual or projected expenses" related to office renovations or upgrades for senior officials at the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Interior, Justice, Labor, Transportation, Treasury, Veterans Affairs, and State, as well as the Office of Management and Budget and the General Services Administration.

"Taxpayers have a right to know if they're footing the bills for opulent vanity items," Melanie Sloan, a senior advisor at American Oversight, said in a statement.

Scrutiny of the Trump administration's spending habits has increased as reports of extravagant, taxpayer-funded expenditures have stacked up. Several members of President Donald Trump's cabinet—including the Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, and Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin—have come under fire for using private jets or military flights at the public's expense. Perhaps no official has received more criticism than Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who in recent weeks has had to defend the installation of a $43,000 soundproof phone booth in his office and the purchase of $90,000 worth of first-class plane tickets. In interviews, Pruitt claimed that unpleasant interactions with other passengers necessitated the increased security of the first-class cabin.