CONTACT: Jordan Libowitz
202-408-5565 | [email protected]
Washington— Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Regional Administrator Lynne Patton appears to have violated the Hatch Act by displaying official Trump campaign merchandise in her government office, according to a complaint filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). Patton is currently under investigation by OSC for apparently violating the Hatch Act by using her official @LynnePattonHUD twitter account for partisan political activity.
Last month, Patton was profiled in an article in New York magazine about her role as an appointee serving at HUD. The article noted that “a MAGA-inspired red ‘USA’ hat” sits on a shelf in her official HUD office along with several pictures of Patton with President Trump. The official store of the Donald J. Trump 2020 presidential campaign makes clear that the hat displayed in Patton’s office is sold exclusively by the Trump campaign and says “TRUMP” in large white letters. The article also featured a photo of Patton sitting in her office with the campaign hat prominently displayed in the background.
“A key ethics law and guidance explaining it clearly state that government officials may not use their positions to promote partisan politics and certainly may not display campaign merchandise in the workplace,” said CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder. “Yet Lynne Patton and other Trump Administration officials continue to violate this law time and time again. While any one of these violations may seem minor, taken together they represent an administration engaged in unprecedented partisan political activity in direct violation of the law. We are strongly urging OSC to consider additional measures to prevent these rampant abuses.”
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 issued last year describes Hatch Act prohibitions as “broad and emcompass[ing] more than displays or communications.” Notably, OSC guidance specifically mentions that employees may not display any materials from the Trump campaign as well as non-official pictures of President Trump in the workplace or while on duty.
Following CREW complaints, nine Trump Administration officials have been cited for Hatch Act violations, including former 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. The OSC has also confirmed that it has opened several investigations that remain ongoing into several other Trump Administration officials following Hatch Act complaints filed by CREW last fall.