Federal watchdog finds HHS secretary violated Hatch Act
By The Citizen on April 18, 2023
A federal watchdog on Tuesday informed the White House that Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra violated the Hatch Act at an awards gala last September.
The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) submitted a report to President Biden detailing that Becerra was found to have violated the ethics law when he said at a Congressional Hispanic Caucus event he would vote for Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) in the midterm elections.
“In doing so, Secretary Becerra violated the Hatch Act’s prohibition against using his official authority or influence to affect the result of an election,” the OSC report stated.
Becerra told the federal office that his comments about Padilla were “off-the-cuff” and reflected his “longstanding personal relationship” with the senator.
OSC indicated in its report that its findings about Becerra should serve as a reminder for federal officials about proper conduct as the 2024 election season approaches.
Becerra is one of a handful of Biden administration officials to be cited for violating the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal government employees from engaging in campaign activity in their official capacity. The Hatch Act does not apply to the president or vice president.
Former White House press secretary Jen Psaki, former chief of staff Ron Klain, and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge all have been warned for making comments about candidates or an election.
The Trump administration was the subject of numerous Hatch Act complaints during its four years in power.
An outside government watchdog levied complaints against then-White House press secretaries Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kayleigh McEnany, White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley, Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows and other staffers for violating the law.
The Office of Special Counsel recommended in 2019 that then-White House counselor Kellyanne Conway be fired for being a repeat offender, an extraordinary step that then-President Trump declined to take.
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