6 White House officials violated Hatch Act, OSC says

White House official Raj Shah. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/White House photo

Dec. 2 (UPI) — The Office of Special Counsel determined six more White House officials violated the Hatch Act, a federal law limiting federal employees’ political activities, with four previously reprimanded.

The 1939 Hatch Act prohibits federal employees other than the president and vice-president from engaging in some political activities to prevent them from affecting elections in a partisan way, including sending partisan messages from social media accounts officially used for government work.

Six White House officials violated the law by using their official Twitter accounts to send or display political messages supporting President Donald Trump, including tweets using his campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” the Office of Special Counsel said.

The violation was revealed in a letter from the Office of the Special Counsel to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington Executive Director Noah Bookbinder.

The OSC issued warning letters to the six officials that stated further “prohibited political activity while employed in a position covered by the Hatch Act” will be considered “a willful and knowing violation of the law, which could result in further action.”

The six White House officials reprimanded were principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah; deputy director of communications Jessica Ditto; executive assistant to the president Madeleine Westerhout; former director of media affairs Helen Aguirre Ferré; press secretary for the Vice President Mike Pence Alyssa Farah; and Office of Management and Budget Deputy Communications Director Jacob Wood.

The OSC is responsible for enforcing the Hatch Act. The act is a guideline, so violations are not considered crimes. Punishment may range from a simple reprimand to job loss.

Still, the OSC has limited enforcement power.

If the OSC finds that disciplinary action is required, “OSC can only send a report to the president alerting him of the violation,” said Zachary Kurz, communications director for the Office of the Special Counsel. “It is up to him to impose any discipline.”

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint against four Trump administration officials in a statement in July for violating the Hatch Act and called for the Office of Special Counsel to investigate Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, deputy assistant to the president and communications director for the Office of the First Lady Stephanie Grisham and White House director of social media Dan Scavino.

Grisham, Haley and Scavino were reprimanded for Hatch Act violations, the statement said. White House adviser Kellyanne Conway also received ethics counseling following a complaint over her violation of federal ethics regulations by using her official position to promote Ivanka Trump products.

“OSC should commence a thorough investigation immediately,” Bookbinder said. “This pattern of improper, politicized behavior is unacceptable and must not be allowed to continue.”



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