The White House might not be able to justify spending on housing programs for the homeless, elderly, and poor - evidenced by proposed cuts to such programs within the Department for Housing and Urban Development - but HUD apparently was able to justify spending over $31,000 on a new dining room set for Secretary Ben Carson's office.
The purchase of the custom hardwood table, chairs and hutch came a month after a top agency staff member filed a whistle-blower complaint charging Mr. Carson’s wife, Candy Carson, with pressuring department officials to find money for the expensive redecoration of his offices, even if it meant circumventing the law.
Carson also ran afoul of ethics watchdogs last year regarding his son's involvement in HUD-related activities:
Under pressure earlier this month, he requested that HUD’s inspector general investigate his son’s involvement in a department-sponsored listening tour of Baltimore last summer. Department lawyers had warned Mr. Carson that including Ben Carson Jr., an entrepreneur who does business with the federal government, could create a conflict of interest.
Regarding the dining room set, HUD spokesman Raffi Williams said although "the secretary does want to be as fiscally prudent as possible with the taxpayers’ money," Carson does not believe the cost was exorbitant, nor will he be returning it.
Department officials did not request approval from the House or Senate Appropriations Committees for the expenditure of $31,561, even though federal law requires congressional approval “to furnish or redecorate the office of a department head” if the cost exceeds $5,000.
Mr. Williams said department officials did not request congressional approval because the dining set served a “building-wide need.” The table is inside the secretary’s 10th-floor office suite.