Scott Pruitt's $43K soundproof booth violated federal law: GAO

A $43,000 soundproof telephone booth that Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt put in his office has caused federal watchdogs to speak up loudly.

On Monday, the General Accountability Office sent an eight-page letter to Senate lawmakers reporting that the booth violated federal spending law that caps the amount a presidential appointee can spend on upgrading their office at $5,000 without notifying the Appropriations committees in the Senate and House beforehand.

GAO General Counsel Thomas Armstrong also wrote that the purchase violated the Antideficiency Act, "because EPA obligated appropriated funds in a manner specifically prohibited by law."

The booth — which cost $24,570 itself with nearly $20,000 more in installation costs — is part of a major security upgrade that he ordered for his office that also included biometric locks and a sweep for listening devices.

Pruitt has already come under fire from critics for his 24-hour security detail and first-class travel, both of which have been justified with security concerns.

RELATED: A look at Scott Pruitt

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Former Director of Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt
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Former Director of Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), speaks to employees of the Agency in Washington, U.S., February 21, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), greets employees of the agency in Washington, U.S., February 21, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Director of Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt is sworn in by Justice Samuel Alito as his wife Marilyn holds a bible during ceremony at the Executive Office in Washington, U.S., February 17, 2017.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), greets employees of the agency in Washington, U.S., February 21, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's pick as head of the Environmental Protectional Agency, meets with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2017.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt testifies before a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, U.S., January 18, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R), U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), meets with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) (L) in her office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. January 4, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's pick as head of the Environmental Protectional Agency, meets with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2017.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Oklahoma Farm Bureau Vice President of Public Policy John R.H. Collison (L) meets with Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) to discuss state water issues at the attorney generals office in Oklahoma City, July 29, 2014.

(REUTERS/Nick Oxford)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt in a meeting at his office in Oklahoma City, July 29, 2014. 

(REUTERS/Nick Oxford)

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Pruitt's EPA officials, though, had argued that the booth served a functional purpose: To allow Pruitt to receive calls from President Donald Trump "without concern that classified, deliberative, privileged or sensitive information might inadvertently be disclosed."

Armstrong's letter, however, rejected that claim that aesthetics were the only purview of the requirement of notifying Congress.

While EPA now argues there's too much energy being wasted on an investigation into the booth.

"The GAO letter 'recognized the...need for employees to have access to a secure telephone line' when handling sensitive information," EPA spokeswoman LIz Bowman said in a statement. "EPA is addressing GAO's concern, with regard to Congressional notification about this expense, and will be sending Congress the necessary information this week."

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