Ethics watchdog accuses Jen Psaki of Hatch Act violation

White House press secretary Jen Psaki was accused of violating the Hatch Act by endorsing the campaign of Terry McAuliffe. Photo by Sarah Silbiger/UPI

Oct. 16 (UPI) — An ethics watchdog organization on Friday filed a complaint against White House press secretary Jen Psaki, accusing her of violating the Hatch Act.

In its filing with the Office of Special Counsel, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics said Psaki violated the act by endorsing the campaign of Terry McAuliffe, who’s seeking to regain his seat as governor of Virginia.

The Hatch Act prevents federal government employees from using their office to campaign on others’ behalf.

The alleged violation happened during Thursday’s daily press briefing when a reporter asked Psaki about the Virginia election. She initially said she couldn’t make an endorsement for McAuliffe from the podium, appearing to acknowledge that doing so would be an ethics violation.

“We’re going to do everything we can to help former Governor McAuliffe, and we believe in the agenda he’s representing,” she then said.

Noah Bookbinder, president of the watchdog known as CREW, said the Trump administration “systematically co-opted the government for the president’s re-election.”

“While this conduct does not come close to rising to the level of the outrageous offenses of the Trump administration, that does not mean we should be casual about compliance with an important ethics law,” he added. “The Biden administration should not follow the Trump administration down that path.”

Psaki, appearing on CNN’s “The Lead,” said she and President Joe Biden “take ethics seriously.”

“As I understand it, if I had said ‘he’ instead of ‘we,’ that would not have been an issue at all, and I’ll be more careful with my words next time,” she said. “Words certainly matter.”

CREW tweeted that it looks forward “to a renewed commitment to compliance with the Hatch Act from the administration.”

“We appreciate Jen Psaki and the Biden administration reaffirming their commitment to ethics and to the law, something all too rare in recent years.”


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