House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Regulatory Affairs Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-OH), today exposed yet another federal hard disappearance. This time the missing data involves a federal employee who used Twitter and a webcam for campaign activities during work hours in violation of the Hatch Act. Jordan and Issa today sent a letter to Federal Election Commission Chairman Lee Goodman asking for an investigation into the “recycled” hard drive of an employee who campaigned for President Obama and solicited donations for his campaign in violation of the Hatch Act, which states that federal employees may not conduct political activities during work hours.
“As a part of a settlement agreement with the [Office of Special Counsel], Ms. [April] Sands admitted to violating the Hatch Act by soliciting political contributions via Twitter, conducting political activity through her Twitter account, and participating in a political discussion ‘via webcam from an FEC conference room . . . while on duty,’” Issa and Jordan wrote in their letter. “The FEC [Office of Inspector General] sought to pursue criminal charges stemming from Ms. Sands’s solicitation of political contributions while on duty inside the FEC building. However, the FEC recycled Ms. Sands’s hard drive before the OIG was able to seize it, and therefore the OIG was unable to show that Ms. Sands’s solicitations and political activity were done from an FEC computer. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia thereafter declined criminal prosecution.”
April Sands utilized a Twitter handle, @ReignOfApril, from which she engaged in overtly partisan political attacks on Republicans and endorsements of President Obama and other Democrats candidates. She also solicited financial donations.
Keep in mind that this federal employee, who refers to Republicans as her enemy, is an attorney charged with the responsibility to enforce federal election laws fairly and dispassionately.
“Although we recognize and appreciate the right of every citizen to participate in the political process, the Hatch Act limits certain political activities conducted by employees of the Executive Branch,” the House Oversight Committee letter said. “In particular, the Act prohibits Executive Branch employees from engaging in partisan political activity while on official duty at a federal workplace. Certain employees, including FEC employees, are further restricted by the Hatch Act from engaging in partisan political campaigns or management. Additionally, federal law makes it a crime for a federal employee “to solicit or receive a donation of money or other thing of value in connection with a Federal, State, or local election, while in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties . . . .”
To make matters worse, according to the letter from Issa and Jordan, “Ms. Sands worked for former IRS official Lois Lerner when Ms. Lerner served as the FEC’s Associate General Counsel for Enforcement.” Though it is unclear whether Ms. Sands ever communicated with Ms. Lerner after Ms. Lerner moved to the IRS, “The Committee is aware that Ms. Lerner maintained communication with some former FEC colleagues.”
The House Oversight Committee is asking FEC Chairman Lee Goodman for all documents and communications related to the recycling of Ms. Sands’s hard drive, the FEC’s practices and policies for retaining FEC documents responsive to investigations, including congressional requests and inspector general investigations, and all documents and communications for retaining and archiving FEC electronic information, including emails, instant messages, and internet browsing histories.
“Like the IRS’s destruction of Lois Lerner’s hard drive, the FEC’s recycling of Ms. Sands’s hard drive may have also destroyed material responsive to Freedom of Information Act and congressional oversight requests,” the letter explains.