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Thursday, November 10, 2022
CNS Flip-Flops On Possible Hatch Act Violations Depending On Who's In Office

Just as it's intermittently obsessed with possible violations of the Logan Act (which prohibits unauthorized Americans from negotiating with foreign goverments) depending on which party controls the White House, has a similar attitude toward the Hatch Act, which prohibits certain political activities by federal employees. Susan Jones complained in an Oct. 27 article:

The White House website is warning that Republicans "plan to increase inflation and costs" for Americans.

On Thursday morning, the top item on the "Briefing Room" web page -- where White House staffers post statements, “fact sheets,” transcripts, and news releases -- reads as follows:

"Congressional Republicans’ Five-Part Plan to Increase Inflation and Costs for American Families."

"Congressional Republicans have laid out their mega MAGA trickle-down economic plan clearly," the news release says. "Their economic plan will raise costs and make inflation worse. Their five part plan includes:

-- "$3 trillion in tax cuts skewed to the wealthy";

-- "Raising prescription drug costs for millions of seniors" (by repealing the so-called Inflation Reduction Act, which is mostly a green energy bill with a few goodies thrown in to make it seem like cost reduction);

-- "Increasing health insurance premiums" (by repealing the so-called Inflation Reduction Act);

-- "Increasing energy bills in 2023 and beyond (by repealing the clean energy provisions, including tax credits for EVs, provided in the Inflation Reduction Act);

-- "Increasing student loan payments" (by reversing Biden's possibly unconstitutional move to cancel some debt for some students).

(Notably, the news release is not labeled a “fact sheet.”)

According to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, "The Hatch Act, a federal law passed in 1939, limits certain political activities of federal employees..."

The OSC does not offer specific guidance on the White House "Briefing Room" webpage. However, it does say that all federal civilian executive branch employees, except for the president and the vice president, are covered by the Hatch Act.


On Wednesday, as the New York Post reported, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain was warned that he violated the Hatch Act by retweeting a message urging people to purchase “Democrats Deliver” merchandise.

That last criticism was reinforced in an article by Melanie Arter the same day:

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain was admonished by the Office of Special Counsel on Wednesday for violating the Hatch Act by retweeting a message from his government account from the Democratic group STRIKE PAC that included the statement, “Get your Democrats Deliver merch today.”

The tweet in question, which was posted on May 22, was about delivering infant formula.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked about the Office of Special Counsel’s finding during a gaggle on board Air Force One en route to Syracuse, N.Y.

The press secretary said that the Biden administration takes the Hatch Act more seriously than the Trump administration did.

You will not be surprised to learn that CNS took Hatch Act violations as unseriously as the Trump administration when Trump was in office. When Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway was found by the Office of Special Counsel in 2019 to have repeatedly violated the Hatch Act and recommended her removal, Susan Jones grumbled that the House Oversight Committee subpoenaed her and that "One Republican, Justin Amash, voted with Democrats." She went on to uncritically quote Republican Rep. Jim Jordan reframing her violations by claiming that "a senior adviser to the president of the United States can sure as heck go on cable news shows and answer questions" and that she's being targeted "not just because she's in the Trump administration, but she's being targeted because she's good at what she does."

(Arter didn't mention Conway's repeated Hatch Act violations in her article on Klain.)

When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a speech from Israel during the 2020 Republican National Convention, Patrick Goodenough complained that "some Jewish Democrats, who see it as a ploy to politicize the U.S.-Israel relationship" as well as a possible violation of the Hatch Act, while uncritically repeating Trump administration officials' insistence that Pompeo was giving the speech "in his personal capacity." A couple days later, Melanie Arter played stenographer for a Republcian congressman who appeaered on Fox News playing whataboutism to deflect from Pompeo:

Former Congressman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said Wednesday that it’s ironic for Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) to call for an investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaking at the Republican National Convention on Tuesday, given that five cabinet-level Democrats spoke during the Democratic National Convention in 2012.

Castro, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee, issued a statement, saying “This action is part of a pattern of politicization of U.S. foreign policy for which President Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives. That undermines America's standing in the world. The American people deserve a full investigation."


“So if you're going to investigate noncompliance with the Hatch Act, if you’re going to accuse Mike Pompeo, how many cabinet-level officials spoke at the DNC in 2012? Five. So I will trade the power of incumbency. I think people understand incumbents have power – congressional incumbents do, presidential,” he said.

According to the schedule of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Small Business Administration Administrator Karen Mills, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius - all members of the Obama administration at the time - spoke at the convention headlines by President Barack Obama.

When Pompeo got dinged again for another possible Hatch Act violation in December 2020 by campaigning for Republican candidates in Georgia, Goodenough again rushed to his defense, delcaring:

A non-exhaustive review of travel by Pompeo’s two Democratic predecessors at the State Department finds that Kerry delivered occasional speeches in Massachusetts (including one at Harvard in 2015 and another at MIT in early 2017) and visited a wind technology testing center in Boston with his British counterpart in 2014.

Clinton took part in numerous events in New York City while serving as secretary of state from Jan. 21, 2009 to Feb. 1, 2013 – not including those relating to the United Nations – delivering speeches at policy institutions, schools, galas, benefits, award dinners, and other events.

Biut as we noted at the time, Goodenough buried the fact that Kerry and Clinton were appearing in their home states but didn't mention that Pompeo is from Kansas and has no connection to Georgia.

That, in turn, is a change from how it treated the Hatch Act during the Obama administraiton. For instance, a 2010 article by Fred Lucas suggested that "strict guidelines for the placement, size, and visibility of signs promoting the $862-billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act" was a Hatch Act violation. And a 2013 article by Craig Bannister toutred how "U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (O-Okla.) has launched a probe into potential Hatch Act violations by the White House in its climate agenda advocacy."

Posted by Terry K. at 1:40 AM EST

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