CLC Urges Office of Special Counsel to Review Potential Hatch Act Violation by Ben Carson

Aug 24, 2017
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Carson appeared at Trump rally in Phoenix; was introduced under formal HUD title

WASHINGTON – Today, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) released a legal complaint by letter to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) urging them to investigate a possible violation of the Hatch Act by Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson on Tuesday night at a campaign rally for President Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign.

Under the Hatch Act, Secretary Carson is legally permitted to attend political rallies, but cannot use his official government title during the appearance. This prohibition prevents officials from mixing personal and official activities in ways that lends governmental support to a partisan political candidate. Tuesday’s event in Phoenix, Arizona was a campaign event paid for by Republican Party funds.

“Misuse of the government’s authority to support a partisan political candidate is an issue that should be taken seriously to deter future violations,” said Walter Shaub, senior director, ethics at CLC, and the former director of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE). “Failure to address this misconduct would send the wrong message. We’re in the unusual circumstance of the presidential election cycle having started only months after the last election, which leaves plenty of time for the violations to multiply if there’s no accountability.”

Shortly before the end of the Obama Administration, in April 2016, then-HUD Secretary Julián Castro was found to be in violation of the Hatch Act when he endorsed Hillary Clinton during a media interview in his government office. In its report on Secretary Castro, OSC wrote, “[I]t is a use of official authority or influence to affect an election when an employee uses his official title while participating in political activity.”

According to the Office of Special Counsel's website: "Federal programs are administered in a nonpartisan fashion, to protect federal employees from political coercion in the workplace, and to ensure that federal employees are advanced based on merit and not based on political affiliation​."

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