News & Politics

FLASHBACK: Two Obama-Era Officials Violated Hatch Act But Weren't Removed from Office

FLASHBACK: Two Obama-Era Officials Violated Hatch Act But Weren't Removed from Office
(Aude Guerrucci/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Office of the Special Counsel has recommended the removal of White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway over violations of the Hatch Act.

The OSC wrote that her “violations, if left unpunished, would send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions. Her actions thus erode the principal foundation of our democratic system — the rule of law.”

This isn’t the first time a White House or cabinet official violated the Hatch Act. It happened several times in the Obama administration but the OSC didn’t recommend the removal of the official.

In 2012, the OSC said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made “extemporaneous partisan remarks” in her official capacity in violation of the Hatch Act. Sebelius acknowledged her remarks were a “mistake” and she was not removed from her position due to the violation.

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, who is now a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, violated the Hatch Act in 2016 by praising then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in an interview at his HUD office, but President Obama did not remove him from his position.

“To his credit, Secretary Castro acknowledged the mistake that he made,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said. “He owned up to it, and he’s taken the necessary steps to prevent it from happening again. That’s the expectation that people have when you make a mistake, particularly in a situation like this.”

The OSC was also investigating Obama’s former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis for violating the Hatch Act but the matter was closed when she resigned from her position in 2013.

According to the complaint, Solis “left a voicemail message on a subordinate employee’s government-issued Blackberry in which you asked the employee to contribute toward and assist with organizing others to attend a fundraiser for the President’s reelection campaign.” The OSC indicated that it could re-open the probe into Solis if she were nominated for an executive branch position sometime in the future.

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