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Washington — Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Seema Verma likely violated the Hatch Act by using her official government Twitter account to advocate against a political party and by participating in a partisan video opinion piece while in her official capacity, according to a complaint filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC).
Administrator Verma posted a number of political messages in violation of the Hatch Act, including retweeting a message attacking the Democratic party posted by former Trump campaign senior advisor Boris Epshteyn. She caused a stir online when she tweeted a message saying, “This year’s scariest Halloween costume goes to…” and included an image of a man wearing a tee shirt with the words “MEDICARE FOR ALL.” According to CREW’s complaint, the messages mirror a Republican party talking point that, as the Washington Post recently noted, is featured in a new wave of Republican campaign ads.
“For a second consecutive week, we are filing a complaint against a Trump administration official for illegally using an official position for partisan politics,” CREW executive director, Noah Bookbinder said. “Administrator Verma, who oversees benefits to millions of Americans, should be particularly sensitive about not abusing her position for politics, and she certainly should know better by now after the administration’s many previous violations. We are now left to assume that Trump administration officials are well aware of their obligations under the Hatch Act and simply have no intention of following the law.”
The Hatch Act prohibits any executive branch employee from “us[ing] his 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 “remain politically neutral.”
Following previous CREW complaints, multiple Trump Administration officials have been cited for Hatch Act violations including outgoing Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, Deputy Assistant to the President and Communications Director for the Office of the First Lady Stephanie Grisham and White House Director of Social Media Dan Scavino.