Following two early close calls, the Biden Administration must emphasize the need for compliance with the Hatch Act and ensure that incoming officials are receiving proper ethics training, according to a letter sent today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington to the White House Counsel.
Last week, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge may have run afoul of the Hatch Act by commenting during a White House press briefing about an upcoming Senate election in her home state of Ohio. This followed White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tweeting from her official account about efforts to recall California Governor Gavin Newsom last month.
“We appreciate that Secretary Fudge later acknowledged she should not have answered the question about the Ohio Senate race and that she takes compliance with these rules seriously,” the letter reads. “We further note that Ms. Psaki’s tweet did not in fact violate the Hatch Act. Nevertheless, these incidents highlight the need for awareness of and adherence to the Hatch Act and other ethics rules.”
The Hatch Act is intended to prevent federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity in their official capacity. Officials in the Trump administration repeatedly and flagrantly violated the Hatch Act, and despite efforts of the Office of Special Counsel, did not face consequences for their conduct.
“We appreciate that the Biden administration has voiced a very different attitude toward ethics rules, but we hope this new attitude will be backed up with rigorous efforts not just to avoid violations of the Hatch Act, but also to respect the spirit of the law and keep covered government officials away from partisan politics while in their official capacity,” the letter continues. “We strongly urge you to ensure that administration officials receive full Hatch Act and ethics training as quickly as possible and, moreover, that incoming officials make every effort to comply with this critical law.”