Washington, DC – Today, Cause of Action Institute (CoA Institute) sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Department of Commerce Office of Inspector General (OIG) to investigate misconduct by a high-ranking political appointee, including inappropriate travel reimbursements and excessive spending on office renovations.

CoA Institute President and CEO, and former federal judge, Alfred J. Lechner, Jr.: “A high-ranking political appointee at the Department of Commerce must be held accountable for his rampant wasteful spending and misconduct. Reports of taxpayer-funded lavish foreign travel, luxury car service, and ‘over the top’ office renovations raise serious concerns. Such misconduct is beyond inappropriate and could even be criminal.  American taxpayers have the right to know whether such wasteful spending could be a more widespread problem at the agency.”

On September 8, 2016, the Department of Commerce Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report detailing numerous instances of misconduct and wasteful spending. A high-ranking political appointee appears to have regularly used the U.S. Treasury as a slush fund by staying in luxury hotels and using luxury car services at taxpayers’ expense.

In one case, the employee traveled to Geneva, Switzerland where he stayed at a luxury hotel that cost around $1,150 per night, despite the allowable per diem being $340 per night. He was subsequently reimbursed 150 percent of the standard per diem rate for his entire stay, even though a portion of the trip was for personal travel. During the same trip, one of his staff members stayed in a room at a different hotel that was below the per diem rate.

Taxpayers also footed the bill for the employee to travel in luxury vehicles, including nearly $1,800 for an SUV provided by a luxury hotel during his two-day trip to Boston, Massachusetts.

The employee also spent an excessive amount of taxpayer money on his office renovations, likely violating the Anti-Deficiency Act. Despite Congress limiting office renovations to $5,000, the Department spent more than $50,000 on this political appointee’s office.  Shortly after assuming his role with the Department, the employee instructed his subordinates to make the space “reflective of [his] position.” Some subordinate employees were apparently fearful of losing their position if the renovations were not acceptable. According to the OIG report, renovations included new carpeting “chosen after consultation with an interior maintenance specialist” for a luxury hotel. An administrative official described these renovations as “over the top.”

In order to understand the full extent of the abuses, CoA Institute requests all of the materials compiled by the OIG for its report. The full FOIA request can be found here.