Washington —The State Department should reinstate and publicly acknowledge its long-standing policy restricting the political activities of State Department political appointees, according to a letter sent today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. In August 2020, former Secretary of State Michael Pompeo acted against the advice of State Department lawyers and changed the policy just a few days before he delivered a pre-recorded address to the Republican National Convention while out of the country on official business.
Put in place in 1994, the policy was designed to prevent the State Department from being viewed as overtly partisan. Until it was changed by Secretary Pompeo, this policy included restrictions prohibiting political appointees from addressing political party conventions and worked in tandem with another policy barring all government employees from engaging in political activities while abroad, from which he was granted a “one-time exception.”
“Allowing Mike Pompeo’s policy change to stay in place sends a dangerous signal that future Secretaries of State should feel entitled to use their positions to advance their own or the president’s partisan political interests,” said CREW President Noah Bookbinder. “Reinstating the original State Department policy is necessary to restore integrity to the agency and to fully address the misconduct of the previous administration. The State Department should work to immediately reinstate this policy or publicly confirm that it already has.”
A recent report issued by the Office of Special Counsel found evidence that Pompeo violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits public officers from using their official authority for partisan purposes, by changing the State Department’s policy that barred him from addressing a political party convention. OSC also found that Pompeo violated the Hatch Act after he delivered a pre-recorded speech to the RNC that focused almost exclusively on his official responsibilities, which he taped while on official travel to Jerusalem.
“Publicly reinstating this policy is crucial to rebuilding faith that the State Department’s foreign policy operations will remain free from partisan antics and restoring the Department’s leadership role in the global fight against corruption,” said Bookbinder.