Integrity as the standard
“Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity set the expectations for behavior; they set a standard for our work. More than just a motto, for the men and women of the FBI, Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity is a way of life.” —Former FBI Director Robert Mueller
TRACKING CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
Sunlight Foundation’s “Tracking Trump’s Conflicts of Interest” project provides a free, searchable database detailing President Donald J. Trump’s known business dealings and personal interests that may conflict with his public duties as President of the United States. The project also documents news coverage of these potential conflicts. Read their reporting to stay current on related news, explore their database, and learn more about the project. They update the database as more is learned about the business dealings of the First Family.
THE HATCH ACT
We're not talking Hatch chile from New Mexico here, though, it was named after Sen. Carl Hatch of the same state who sponsored the original bill that became law in 1939 and most recently was amended in 2012.
The Act's intent is to “prevent pernicious political activities” and its main provision prohibits employees in the Executive Branch from engaging in some forms of political activity, with some exclusions.
An April 2016 report from the Congressional Research Service titled “Hatch Act Restrictions on Federal Employees’ Political Activities in the Digital Age” is the most current scope of the Act available to Executive Branch staff.
In its current form, the Hatch Act generally prohibits some categories of political activities for all covered employees. These restrictions generally prohibit such employees from the following:
• Using their “official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election;”
• soliciting, accepting, or receiving political campaign contributions from any person;
• running “for election to a partisan political office;”
• soliciting or discouraging participation in political activity of any person who either has an application for a grant, contract, or other status pending before the employing agency or is the subject of an ongoing audit, investigation, or enforcement action by the employing agency;
• engaging in partisan political activity on official duty time; on federal property; while wearing a uniform or insignia identifying them as federal officials or employees; or while using a government vehicle.
Specific political activities that are permitted or prohibited for each category of federal employees covered by the Hatch Act are provided in the Appendix of the report. Notably, employees are not prohibited from all forms of political activity, and the Hatch Act expressly preserves an employee’s “right to vote as he chooses and to express his opinion on political subjects and candidates.”
Click here to read the full report.
All of this said, and as you may imagine, our current administration has stomped all over the Hatch Act violating it dozens of times since taking office. Watchdog groups like MIGA and others are calling out Trump staffers like Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Mick Mulvaney, Alyssa Farah and others who frequently tweet comments in clear violation of the law.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) have filed several complaints to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) during the past few months outlining “unprecedented partisan political activity using their official Twitter accounts in direct violation of the Hatch Act,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “Despite multiple investigations and violations found, the Trump Administration clearly has no intention to stop the misuse of government offices and resources for political purposes. We are now calling on the OSC to consider additional measures to prevent the rampant abuses coming from this administration.”
Here are just a couple egregious examples:
MICK MULVANEY - Director of the Office of Management and Budget
Shortly after joining the Trump Administration in February 2017, Mulvaney began using the official Twitter handle @MickMulvaneyOMB. The logo of the OMB office, his official title and a photo of him on The White House lawn are included in his Twitter profile.
On April 5, 2018, the OMB director authored an op-ed published by CNBC regarding the Administration’s economic policy titled “MAGAnomics is working and defying critics.” MAGAnomics make reference to Trump's political campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.” The op-ed was also published on the White House website and referenced the CNBC piece. Mulvaney several times uses the term “MAGAnomics” when discussing the administration’s economic policy. One example:
“While many are predicting GDP growth for the first three months of this year may not be as high, we should weigh that possibility against this certainty: the Left, and many in the media, will pounce on any report to throw doubt on not only the health of the American economy, but on the efficacy of President Donald Trump’s MAGAnomics (Make America Great Again) agenda of tax reform, deregulation, trade renegotiation and domestic energy independence.”
The Twitter post below authored by @MickMulvaneyOMB includes CNBC post and again mentions MAGAnomics. All of this violates the Hatch Act.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS - White House Press Secretary
Shortly after becoming White House Press Secretary in August 2017, succeeding Sean Spicer, Sanders began using the official Twitter handle @PressSec.
According to a CREW complaint filed in August, there is little doubt that the @PressSec Twitter account is used by Sanders for official government purposes. According to the @PressSec Twitter page, the handle was created in January 2017 when Trump became the 45th President of the United States. The account profile states that Sanders proudly represents “@POTUS Trump’s Administration.” There are also photos of she and the president talking as part of the profile. There is no doubt she works for him and the administration.
Well, she has violated the Hatch Act. On March 6, 2018, Sanders used her official @PressSec Twitter account to make a partisan political post when she shared a Wall Street Journal article regarding U.S. oil production along with her commentary: “Great again: The U.S. is likely to overtake Russia to become the world’s largest oil producer.” “Great again” refers to Trump's political campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.”
Several provisions within the Hatch Act have been recently expanded and clarified by the OSC to prohibit Executive Branch employees from “using his or her official title while participating in political activity.” “Political activity” is defined as “an activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.
The employees are prohibited from using a “social media account designated for official purposes to post or share messages directed at the success or failure of a political party, candidate in a partisan race, or partisan political group. All such official social media accounts should remain politically neutral,” the OSC says.
Furthermore, the OSC’s March 2018 updated Hatch Act guidance clarifies that since Trump officially became a candidate for reelection on February 27, 2018, federal employees are prohibited from using official social media accounts to use campaign slogan such as “Make America Great Again” or “MAGA.”
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