Washington Post: Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act. Will she be charged?

Walter Shaub
Nov 27, 2017
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CLC's Senior Director, Ethics, Walter Shaub, wrote the following op-ed for the Washington Post discussing the recent Hatch Act violation by Kellyanne Conway.

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The special counsel is facing the biggest test of his career. I’m referring not to Robert S.Mueller III but to Henry Kerner of the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the small agency that investigates Hatch Act violations. That law prohibits executive branch employees from using their government positions to influence elections, which is precisely what presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway did last week. Whether Kerner will enforce the law is another matter.

When Conway appeared on“Fox and Friends” last Monday, it was clear she was doing so in an official capacity: One of the show’s hosts introduced her by her title and she articulated the administration’s views as she stood in front of the White House. In discussing whether the president has enough votes to get a tax bill through the Senate, Conway (without prompting) attacked Doug Jones, the Democratic candidate for Senate in Alabama. 

Conway’s intent was clear enough already, but she decided to make it clearer. “I’m telling you that we want the votes in the Senate to get this tax bill through,” she admitted. 

Based on this obvious violation of the Hatch Act, the Campaign Legal Center (where I am a senior director) filed a complaint against Conway with the OSC. The White House has offered typical misdirection in response, asserting that Conway was innocently championing the president’s agenda. The question is not whether Conway was championing the agenda of the president — who, it’s worth noting, actively supports Moore — but whether she was advocating against Jones. Only in a world of alternative facts could Conway’s televised words amount to anything other than advocacy against Jones.

In short, the case against Conway is airtight.

What happens to Conway will send an unmistakable message to the rest of the federal workforce about this administration’s commitment to enforcing the Hatch Act. Kerner asked for this thankless job, and he’s taken an oath to enforce the Hatch Act. His willingness to pursue this slam-dunk case will tell us whether he has any intention of fulfilling that oath. If he does seek to hold Conway accountable, his penalty recommendation will tell us how vigorously he intends to go about fulfilling that oath. We should all watch what Kerner does next.

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