December 3, 2023
Conservative Group Accuses White House Press Secretary Of Violating Hatch Act
Former President Trump’s political advisor Kellyanne Conway was charged with 12 violations of the Hatch Act—and remained on the job.
A conservative watchdog group has accused White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre of violating the Hatch Act, which essentially forbids any federal employee from engaging in political activity while on duty in their capacity as a federal employee.
According to The Hill, the complaints from Protect The Public Trust, run by former Trump administration official Michael Chamberlain, were submitted to the Office of Special Council, who sent Jean-Pierre and White House spokesman Andrew Bates letters.
According to NBC News, an October letter from the OSC warned that the use of the term “MAGA” was considered a campaign-related slogan. Chamberlain went after Jean-Pierre specifically in the complaint he filed in June, writing, “Your letter advised Ms. Jean-Pierre ‘that should she again engage in prohibited political activity, OSC would consider it a knowing and willful violation of the law that could result in OSC pursuing disciplinary action.’ That is precisely what Ms. Jean-Pierre has done,” Chamberlain wrote. “It further is highly unlikely that the phrase ‘MAGA’ appeared in two separate White House Press Office documents on the same day by accident.”
Chamberlain also claimed that the OSC’s refusal to punish Jean-Pierre signaled to him that the Hatch Act is not taken seriously, “at least nobody that matters,” Chamberlain told NBC News. “Ms. Jean-Pierre cites it frequently to avoid tough questions, but when she and her deputy received the initial warning from OSC, they doubled down.”
Chamberlain added, “They probably guessed there would be no consequences, and the OSC appears to have proven them correct.”
According to NBC News, enforcement of the Hatch Act for top officials is considered impossible, while lower-level federal employees are often punished for running afoul of the OSC’s rules. However, in 2021, members of the Trump administration were under scrutiny for possible violations of the Hatch Act multiple times, culminating in a November 2021 report calling their behavior “especially pernicious” and saying their actions “appeared to be a taxpayer-funded campaign apparatus within the upper echelons of the executive branch.”
According to The Guardian, Trump’s one-time political advisor Kellyanne Conway was charged by the OSC with 12 separate violations of the Hatch Act, but then-President Donald Trump ignored the OSC’s recommendation to fire Conway. According to Donald Sherman, the deputy director of CREW, (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) the Trump administration’s top officials committed numerous Hatch Act violations, but were insulated by Trump.
“Trump has been openly dismissive of the Hatch Act and didn’t fire Conway when OSC recommended it,” Sherman said. “This administration has committed Hatch Act violations of a greater scope, scale and frequency than any administration in recent memory.”