Purpose of the Hatch Act
The Hatch Act is a federal law that prohibits federal employees from engaging in certain partisan political activities. The purpose of the Hatch Act is to keep partisan politics independent from the administration of federal programs, and to ensure that individuals do not use their entrusted authority to affect the political process.
The law serves as an important cornerstone of ethical public service, and CLC has flagged potential Hatch Act violations numerous times to alert government agencies of potential misconduct and call on the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) to investigate. Violations of the Hatch Act can result in disciplinary action such as reprimand, suspension, demotion or dismissal.
CLC’s Recent Work on the Hatch Act
In March 2018, in response to a complaint filed by CLC, OSC determined that White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway acted improperly when she advocated against an Alabama Senate candidate on TV. Conway had advocated against that candidate from the White House grounds, while identified on camera by her official title, not once but on two separate occasions. OSC found she violated the Hatch Act on both occasions and referred the matter to President Donald Trump for disciplinary action. CLC had filed the November 2017 complaint after Conway appeared on Fox & Friends to advocate against a candidate for public office using her official government title while standing in front of the White House. This was not Conway’s first run-in with ethics-related legal provisions.
Nor was it CLC’s first attempt to hold her accountable for living up to the high standards expected of senior White House officials.
CLC took action because the American people should be able to trust those wielding governmental power to live up to high ethical standards. Public service is a public trust. When Conway misused her position, she broke that trust.
CLC has used these and other instances of government malfeasance as opportunities to educate the public about the Hatch Act and other ethics laws, with the goal of ensuring that government resources and authority are being used properly.