Pruitt’s $25,000 Phone Booth Under Investigation by EPA Inspector General
WASHINGTON – The Inspector General for the Environmental Protection Agency announced an investigation into EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s use of nearly $25,000 in taxpayer dollars to purchase a customized secure private phone booth.
Arthur Elkins, the agency’s IG, informed Democratic members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee that he would look into whether the use of taxpayer funds for the phone booth – known as a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF – may have violated federal appropriations law.
“Whomever Pruitt is speaking with inside the soundproof booth is troubling enough, considering his systematic attacks on EPA’s mission,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “But this wanton waste of taxpayer dollars in order to keep secret his looting of public health and environmental protections is a slap in the face to taxpayers.”
“Is the American taxpayer entitled to a photo of this secret phone booth, or is that too much to ask?” added Cook. “There was once a time when it was discouraged to even look at the king, and you would never get a glimpse inside his quarters. Is that where we are today, Mr. Pruitt?”
At last week's hearing Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., pressed Pruitt on how often and why he uses the SCIF.
The Washington Post’s Brady Dennis reported in September that Pruitt's SCIF was a customized version, with "a lot of modifications," that cost several times more than a typical model.
Dennis reported that according to former agency employees, the EPA has long maintained a SCIF on a separate floor from the administrator’s office, where officials with proper clearances can go to share information classified as secret.
“Taxpayers should be even more incensed over Pruitt’s waste of their money when there was already a secure phone line in the EPA offices,” said Cook.
In November, Pruitt told the Post's James Hohmann that it wasn't convenient enough.
"It's kind of hard to tell someone that's reaching out that, to have a confidential, secure conversation, I've got to go down two floors, and over two levels, and I'll call you back," Pruitt said. "That's just not... how things should work."
“It sounds like Pruitt spends more time in his secret phone booth plotting the dismantling of the EPA than tweens do texting," said Cook. "If you’re going to tear down the nation’s public health and environmental protections at the behest of polluters, at the very least you should have to walk down two floors to do it.”