Washington—Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley violated the Hatch Act by retweeting a political message endorsing candidate Ralph Norman, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) ruled based on a complaint filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). OSC issued Haley 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.”
As noted in CREW’s original complaint, Haley engaged in legally prohibited activity by retweeting a political message from President Donald Trump that read, “Ralph Norman, who is running for Congress in SC’s 5th District, will be a fantastic help to me in cutting taxes” from a Twitter account with an official government headshot and a photograph of Ambassador Haley with President Trump and other members of the United Nations Security Council in a room at the White House.
“This is already the third time this year that a senior Trump official has been reprimanded for misusing their official position following a CREW complaint,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “Ambassador Haley should have known better.”
In April, OSC reprimanded White House Director of Social Media Dan Scavino, Jr. for violating the Hatch Act following a CREW complaint. Scavino engaged in political activity by tweeting that Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) should be defeated in the next primary. 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.
“One is unfortunate, two is a coincidence, but three in less than a year is a pattern,” Bookbinder said. “This all stems from the president’s permissive attitude toward ethics; the tone is set at the top.”
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.” Activities covered by this prohibition include the official “us[ing] his or her official title while participating in political activity.” 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.”