White House

Obama officials were accused of violating Hatch Act, too — including a 2020 hopeful

Presidential candidate Julián Castro at rally in Fort Worth

Julián Castro joined mayoral candidate Deborah Peoples in a Get Out the Vote Rally in south Fort Worth on Saturday.
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Julián Castro joined mayoral candidate Deborah Peoples in a Get Out the Vote Rally in south Fort Worth on Saturday.

President Trump’s counselor Kellyanne Conway has some company when it comes to being accused of violating the Hatch Act — including a Democratic 2020 hopeful.

The act bars public employees from using their official roles for political purposes. The Office of Special Counsel said in a report sent to the president this week that Conway has violated the act numerous times and recommended that she be fired, according to the Associated Press.

It’s an infraction the Office of Special Counsel found President Obama’s Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro guilty of committing once in 2016, after the former San Antonio mayor praised Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in an interview at his government office, the Washington Times reported.

At the time, Obama press secretary Josh Earnest said Castro wouldn’t be disciplined, the Times reported, adding that Earnest said Castro “owned up to it, and he’s taken the necessary steps to prevent it from happening again. That’s the expectation that people have when you make a mistake, particularly in a situation like this.”

Castro said in his apology that “when an error is made — even an inadvertent one — the error should be acknowledged. Although it was not my intent, I made one here,” according to CNN.

Conway has taken a different approach to accusations she violated the act.

“If you’re trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it’s not going to work,” Conway said in May when asked about the act during an interview, according to AP. “Let me know when the jail sentence starts.”

Earlier in the Obama administration, another cabinet-level official — Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius — was found to have violated the act, Politico reported in 2012.

The Office of Special Counsel said Sebelius broke the rule while speaking in her official capacity at a North Carolina Human Rights Campaign event where, according to Politico, she said state Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton needed “to be the next governor of North Carolina” and said that “one of the imperatives is to make sure that we not only come together here in Charlotte to present the nomination to the president, but we make sure that in November he continues to be president for another four years.”

Sebelius tried reclassifying the event as personal rather than official after the fact to avoid running afoul the Hatch Act, Politico reported.

Conway’s case is different from those Obama-era instances in that she’s been accused of multiple violations, with the Office of Special Counsel calling her a “repeat offender,” according to AP.

But that doesn’t mean Conway will necessarily be fired as the report recommended.

“Because Kellyanne Conway is a presidential appointee, the Office of Special Counsel itself does not have authority to discipline her,” said Daniel Jacobson, an alum of White House Counsel’s Office under Obama, according to the Washington Post. “They can only recommend disciplinary measures and it is up to the president to take up the recommendation or not.”

The Trump administration pushed back on the office’s finding in Conway’s case.

“Its decisions seem to be influenced by media pressure and liberal organizations ― and perhaps OSC should be mindful of its own mandate to act in fair, impartial, non-political manner,” White House deputy press secretary Steven Groves said in a statement, according to HuffPost.

President Donald Trump’s counselor Kellyanne Conway appeared to endorse Ivanka Trump’s fashion line during an interview last week with Fox & Friends. White House press secretary Sean Spicer gave a short response about her interview in a press brie

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