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Former Trump appointee forced to repay Treasury for misuse of funds, GOP senator announces

Sen. Chuck Grassley said the expenses were withheld from the final paycheck of former Architect of the Capitol Brett Blanton, whom Biden fired in February.
J. Brett Blanton testifies during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing at the Capitol
Brett Blanton testifies at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing at the Capitol in May 2022.Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call via AP file

WASHINGTON — U.S. taxpayer money that was "misused" by former Architect of the Capitol Brett Blanton was repaid to the federal government by withholding it from his final paycheck, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Tuesday.

In a letter shared by Grassley, the ranking member of the Budget Committee, Chere Rexroat, the acting architect of the Capitol, said last month that about $12,500 was withheld from Blanton's final paycheck after he didn't cooperate and repay the money himself. An insurance company contributed the remaining amount, about $1,400.

"When dealing with trillions of dollars in government spending, a dozen or so thousand can seem like an insignificant amount. However, this amount would be important to a family struggling to make ends meet in a time of record inflation and price hikes," Grassley said on the Senate floor.

Grassley recounted a report by the architect office's inspector general that found that Blanton had engaged in "unauthorized vehicle use, misrepresentation as a law enforcement officer, ethics violations, and lastly appropriations violations." Blanton had driven more than 29,000 miles using government vehicles instead of the allotted roughly 10,000 miles, the report said.

"In total, the Inspector General identified $13,926 of inappropriate costs associated with Blanton’s use of government vehicles," Grassley said Tuesday.

Grassley noted that he had sent a letter in February asking Blanton when he would repay the money.

"As of today, more than two months later, he’s failed to respond to my inquiry and my staff’s attempts to contact him," Grassley said. "He also has made no effort to repay the money he owes the American people."

As a result, Rexroat said, more than $12,500 was withheld from Blanton's final payment and returned to the Treasury.

Blanton didn't immediately reply to a request for comment.

In mid-February, President Joe Biden fired Blanton after the inspector general's report revealed that he had abused his authority and misused taxpayer money in his role overseeing the Capitol complex. Rexroat has since served in an interim capacity.

Blanton could be removed only by the president because the architect of the Capitol is a presidential appointee confirmed by the Senate. Blanton was nominated to a 10-year term by former President Donald Trump; he started the job in January 2020.