The U.S. Office of Special Counsel announced Tuesday that White House aide Kellyanne Conway twice violated the Hatch Act by “advocating for and against candidates” in last year’s Alabama Senate special election.
But, what exactly is the Hatch Act?
The federal campaign ethics law was enacted in 1939 and is officially titled “An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities.”
It prohibits employees in the executive branch of the federal government, except the president, vice-president and certain designated high-level officials, from using their official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the outcome of an election.
The Special Counsel said in its announcement that Conway’s interviews on Nov. 20 and Dec. 6, 2017 violated the Hatch Act when she “impermissibly mixed official government business with political views about candidates in the Alabama special election.”
The interviews were broadcast on CNN’s “New Day” and Fox News’ “Fox & Friends, according to the report.
Special Counsel Henry Kerner has referred a letter with the Special Counsel’s findings to President Trump, “for your consideration of appropriate disciplinary action.”
Federal government employees are allowed to let their political leanings be known, but they are not allowed to use their position in the federal government to sway elections. The fact that the chyron on the television screen during Conway’s interviews listed her in her official capacity as aide to President Trump contributed to the violations, the report said.
Penalties for violating the Hatch Act range from warnings to dismissal.
Julian Castro, then Housing and Urban Development Director under President Obama, was the last high-profile violation of the Hatch Act. His violation occurred in 2016, during an interview with Katie Couric, when he touted Hillary Clinton during the 2016 Presidential election.
The Obama administration decided not to punish Castro. According to the Texas Tribune, Castro said that he has “every interest” in running for President in 2020.