CONTACT: Jordan Libowitz
202-408-5565 | [email protected]
Washington — White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders likely violated the Hatch Act by using her official government Twitter account to tweet a photo of herself with Kanye West, who was wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, in the Oval Office, according to a complaint filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). The Hatch Act forbids government employees from using official accounts to tweet out partisan campaign propaganda, including President Trump’s campaign slogan.
“This administration does not seem to care about what the law says when it comes to ethics issues like using official positions for politics,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “How many investigations and findings of violations are needed until this administration takes action to stop the misuse of government resources for political activity?”
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.” In March, 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.”
Today’s Hatch Act complaint is not the first to be filed against Sanders. In August, CREW filed Hatch Act complaints against ten White House staffers, including Sanders, for using their official government Twitter accounts for political activity. Other officials included Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and several White House communications staffers. Several of the potential violations addressed in these complaints occurred within days of OSC’s guidance issued in March.
Following previous CREW complaints, multiple Trump Administration officials have been cited for Hatch Act violations including 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. Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway also received ethics counseling following a CREW complaint over her violation of federal ethics regulations by using her official position to promote Ivanka Trump products.