CONTACT: Jordan Libowitz
202-408-5565 | [email protected]
Washington—Vice President Pence’s Chief of Staff Marc Short appears to have violated the Hatch Act during an interview on White House grounds while discussing the 2020 election in his official capacity, according to a complaint sent today to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). Speaking to reporters, Short made pointed statements about the Democratic Party in response to ballot issues during the Iowa caucuses and offered unsolicited commentary that appeared to promote President Trump’s re-election efforts.
On February 4, 2020, while speaking to reporters on White House grounds, Short initially began his remarks discussing his official responsibilities, though he quickly transitioned into offering partisan commentary. Short expressed political views about the Democratic Party, President Trump’s re-election prospects and the president’s thoughts and feelings about the 2020 general election, along with another candidate for partisan office. The C-SPAN video and webpage for the exchange identified him as Chief of Staff to Vice President Pence, so Short appeared to be using his official authority and influence for the purpose of affecting the result of the 2020 election. The Hatch Act specifically prohibits use of official positions to advance political campaigns.
“Yet again, the Trump administration has shown it has little interest in following the laws intended to prevent federal officials from using their positions to unfairly promote political candidates,” said CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder. “Administration officials continue to misuse taxpayer-funded offices and resources for politics, and the President has made it clear he has no interest in stopping them. We will continue to call out this misbehavior and hold those who violate the Hatch Act accountable for their actions.”
The Hatch Act prohibits executive branch employees from “us[ing their] official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.” Under this rule, federal employees are also barred from participating in political activities in their official authority. “Political activity” is defined as “an activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.”
“The Hatch Act is clear about what political activities are off limits for federal employees,” said Bookbinder. “It is beyond disturbing that, three years in, so many White House officials have made clear that they either don’t understand these simple rules or just don’t care to follow them.”
Since President Trump’s inauguration, CREW complaints have led to reprimands of an unprecedented number of Trump administration officials, including Dan Scavino, Nikki Haley, Stephanie Grisham, Raj Shah, Jessica Ditto, Madeleine Westerhout, Helen Aguirre Ferre, Alyssa Farah, Jacob Wood, Kellyanne Conway and Lynne Patton. Following CREW’s complaints against Kellyanne Conway, OSC took the unprecedented step of recommending Conway be removed from federal service in a scathing report detailing her numerous ethics violations.