OSC says White House employee violated the Hatch Act

The Office of Special Counsel recently concluded that a White House employee violated the Hatch Act.

In a June 5 letter to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), OSC Hatch Act Unit Chief Ana Galinda-Marrone concluded that White House Social Media Director Dan Scavino Jr., did, in fact, violate the Hatch Act with the following tweet:

OSC issued a warning letter to Scavino and noted that the Office of White House Counsel had recently advised him on the Hatch Act.

OSC also reviewed Scavino’s personnel Twitter account and found no other violations.

“Mr. Scavino has been advised that if in the future he engaged in prohibited policy activity while employed in a position covered by the Hatch Act, we will consider such activity to be a willful and knowing violation of the law, which could result in further action,” Galindo-Marone wrote.

CREW, a non-profit that advocates for ethics and advocacy in politics and government, raised its initial concerns about Scavino’s tweet and issued a complaint to OSC.

The group argued that because Scavino specifically called for Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.)’s defeat in a primary election, and because his Twitter account at the time showed a picture of him standing in the Oval Office standing next to an official presidential flag, he violated the Hatch Act.

“The rules are clear that government officials aren’t allowed to use their position for campaign activity,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a June 9 statement. “OSC has made clear with this ruling that they are going to enforce these important rules and work to keep the government free from inappropriate politics.”

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) was also alarmed by the tweet and wrote to OSC in April asking that the agency investigate.

The Hatch Act applies to all executive branch employees, except the president and vice president. It generally prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity on-duty or in the workplace, while wearing an official uniform, insignia, or using a government vehicle.

In addition, the act prohibits federal employees from using their official authority to interfere with the results of an election.

President Donald Trump recently appointed Henry Kerner to be the U.S. Special Counsel. If confirmed, Kerner will replace Carolyn Lerner, who has been serving in holdover capacity after her original five-year term expired. Leadership on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and other members of Congress had asked Trump to renominate Lerner as the U.S. Special Counsel.

“President Trump’s recently-announced nominee to head the Office of Special Counsel must commit to a serious review of all referrals of potential Hatch Act violations,” Carper said in a statement. “Special Counsel Lerner enjoyed broad bipartisan, bicameral support precisely because she took the responsibilities of the Office of Special Counsel seriously. I look forward to carefully reviewing Mr. Kerner’s nomination.”