July 16, 2018
CREW filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) against Deputy Assistant to the President and Communications Director for the Office of the First Lady Stephanie Grisham today for her potential violation of the Hatch Act.
Grisham likely violated the Hatch Act when she used her official White House Twitter account (which cites her official position and affiliation with the White House) to tweet a message that included President Trump’s campaign slogan “#MAGA” (Make America Great Again) and a picture from a 2015 Trump campaign rally. Before serving in the First Lady’s office, Grisham worked on the Trump campaign.
The Hatch Act prohibits any executive branch employee from using their “official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.” OSC guidance on applying the Hatch Act prohibitions to social media, including Twitter, specifically advises that an employee may not “use a Facebook or Twitter account in his official capacity to engage in political activity” and requires that “any social media account created in a federal employee’s official capacity should be limited to official business and remain politically neutral.”
In March, following multiple Hatch Act violations by Trump Administration officials, OSC offered additional clarification explicitly prohibiting an employee from using the slogan “Make America Great Again,” hashtags such as #MAGA, or “any other materials from President Trump’s 2016 or 2020 campaigns.” Grisham’s violation is even more egregious given the specific guidance provided by OSC just a few months ago.
Update: On September 20, 2018, OSC issued Grisham a warning letter noting that any future engagement in prohibited political activity will be considered “a willful and knowing violation of the law, which could result in further action.” Click here to read the OSC’s decision.