April 04, 2016
OSC Files Hatch Act Complaints with Merit Systems Protection Board
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel just issued a new press release on two complaints filed with the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board seeking disciplinary action against federal employees for violating the Hatch Act’s candidacy restrictions.
You will find the press release at the following website: https://osc.gov/News/pr16-06.pdf
June 19, 2015
Hatch Act Update from OSC
See the latest press release from OSC here
January 16, 2015
OSC Press Release of Hatch Act Violation
Yesterday, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) filed a Hatch Act complaint for disciplinary action against a senior official with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). OSC’s complaint alleges that theofficial, a career member of the Senior Executive Service (SES), violated the Hatch Act when the officialsolicited political contributions from co- workers, including a subordinate. The complaint was filed with theMerit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), a quasi- judicial agency that hears disputes alleging merit systemviolations in the federal workplace. The Hatch Act is a federal law that ensures federal programs are run in anonpartisan fashion, protects federal employees from political coercion
in the workplace, and ensures a merit-based civil service.
OSC’s complaint alleges that around September 2011 the USDA official approached a subordinateand outlined the official’s proposal to establish a political action committee (PAC) in support of PresidentBarack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. According to the complaint, the official told the subordinate thatthe official hoped to obtain a political appointment by contributing a large sum of money to PresidentObama’s campaign. The official also told the subordinate that if the subordinate contributed to the official’sproposed PAC and the official received a political appointment, the official would help the subordinateobtain a career SES position. OSC alleges that the official asked the subordinate for a $2,400 contribution.Twice in October 2011, the official suggested that the subordinate contribute their performance bonus tothe proposed PAC. The official solicited the subordinate again in January 2012.
Also in September 2011, the official informed another USDA coworker of the proposed PAC and asked the coworker to contribute $2,000, according to OSC’s complaint. The official told the coworkerthat donating to PACs is how federal employees advance their careers.
According to OSC’s complaint, the official learned of the Hatch Act’s restriction against soliciting,accepting, or receiving political contributions at least as early as 1998. In 2010 and 2011, the official received USDA emails and briefings on the Hatch Act.
OSC’s complaint charges the official with two counts of knowingly soliciting, accepting, or receiving a political contribution from any person; one count of using official authority or influence for the purposeof interfering with or affecting the result of an election; and one count of engaging in political activity in anyroom or building occupied in the discharge of official duties by an individual employed by the United Statesgovernment.
The USDA fully cooperated with OSC’s investigation.
October 28, 2014
OSC Files Complaint for Disciplinary Action in Hatch Act Case
April 29, 2014
OSC Press Release on Hatch Act
Please find the Office of Special Counsel’s latest press release announcing the settlement of two Hatch Act cases for significant disciplinary action.
April 10, 2014
Hatch Act Case Updates from OSC
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which enforces the Hatch Act, recently investigated several cases where Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees were alleged to have engaged in partisan political activity on duty and in the federal workplace. The case updates may be found here Download Hatch Act case updates
April 03, 2014
Presentation Slides from 4/3 IEC Meeting: Hatch Act Briefing
Please find slides from today's Hatch Act presentation here: Download IEC Hatch Act
March 14, 2014
Hatch Act and 501(c)(4) Organizations
The following frequently asked question was recently added to the Office of Special Counsel’s website:
What is a partisan political group or organization? For example, are entities organized under Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code [501(c)(4) organizations] partisan political groups for purposes of the Hatch Act?
Answer: “Partisan political groups or organizations” are committees, clubs and other organizations that affiliate with a political party or candidate for political office in a partisan election. The term also includes committees, clubs and other organizations that are organized for a partisan political purpose. 501(c)(4) organizations are organized to promote social welfare and may participate in some political activity on behalf of or in opposition to candidates for public office, provided such activity is not their primary activity. In light of their purpose, OSC has concluded that they are not partisan political groups for purposes of the Hatch Act.
However, because 501(c)(4) organizations may participate in some political activity, employees should be cautious about engaging in any 501(c)(4)-related activity while at work. For example, the Hatch Act would prohibit an employee from forwarding an email from a 501(c)(4) organization if that email advocates for or against a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.
February 11, 2014
Opinion from U.S. Office of Special Counsel: Hatch Act May Cover Personal Services Contractors
See the full advisory opinion here: Download Advisory Opinion re Personal Services Contractors
February 05, 2014
Federal Employee Violates Hatch Act With Political Tweets
The U.S. government has opted not to prosecute a federal employee who violated the Hatch Act by tweeting about partisan political contests while on the job, the Office of Special Counsel said Tuesday.
The employee allegedly also urged Twitter followers to contribute to a Washington D.C. council candidate’s campaign.
The Hatch Act was designed to curb the appearance of political partisanship among federal employees. The law allows some federal employees to support candidates on social media when they’re not on the clock but does not allow them to urge other people to donate to those candidates.
The Office of Special Counsel decided not to prosecute the partisan tweeter after the employee resigned in December, the office said in a press release on Tuesday. The employee posted more than 30 partisan tweets while on duty, the office said, many of them in support of D.C. Council candidate Kenyan McDuffie, who went on to win his Ward 5 council seat in May of 2012. The two tweets mentioned in the press release both match tweets posted by a tweeter using the handle @IMGoph who also blogs at The District Curmudgeon and posted numerous other tweets about the Kenyan campaign. The District Curmudgeon blogger also plans to move to California, according to a post earlier this month, a detail that comports with the Office of Special Counsel release.
The Office of Special Counsel did not immediately respond to a request to verify that @IMGoph was the Hatch Act violator and @IMGoph did not respond to Nextgov requests for comment via Twitter and email. The employee knew the tweets violated the Hatch Act but posted them anyway, the office said.
November 08, 2013
Federal workers in D.C. get OK to run for office
Politico reports: Federal workers who live in Washington, D.C. will soon be able to run in contested, partisan elections without running afoul of the Hatch Act, a federal law which limits politicking by employees of the U.S. government.
Under a Office of Personnel Management rule change set to take effect next month, federal employees will be permitted to run as independents in such elections. In most of the country, federal workers are barred from running in partisan races, but a slew of communities with large populations of federal employees have exemptions based on the notion that excluding a large cohort of the community from elective offices would unfairly disrupt local governance.
The vast majority of Washington, D.C. suburbs have had waivers for decades, but the district itself was left out due to a historical legal quirk. The new regulation allowing federal employees to be independent candidates in D.C. and permitting them to work on and run such campaigns is set to be published Friday in the Federal Register and to go into effect 30 days later. Federal employees will also be able to solicit volunteers to work for partisan local campaigns, but cannot ask subordinate employees to volunteer.
See the OPM regulation here Download OPM Reg Hatch Act
September 22, 2013
Tom DeLay conviction overturned by Texas court
The Washington Post reports: A Texas appellate court has overturned the conviction of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) for allegedly scheming to influence Texas state elections with corporate money. A three-judge panel voted 2-1 to overturn the conviction, calling the evidence "legally insufficient," according to court papers released Thursday.
The decision formally acquits DeLay of all charges, but it could still be appealed by the government. (Read the court's majority opinion and dissenting opinions.)
DeLay, 66, was convicted in 2010 for allegedly trying to influence Texas elections by funneling corporate money to various candidates. Prosecutors said that the money helped the GOP win control of the Texas House and that the majority then pushed through a DeLay-organized congressional redistricting plan that sent more Republicans to Congress. DeLay was sentenced to three years in prison, but remained free while awaiting appeal rulings.
September 10, 2013
Hatch Act probe nets hundreds; few penalized
Federal Times reports: During the fall 2008 presidential campaigns by then-Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain, an Education Department civil rights attorney zipped off an email that favorably compared President Obama’s education credentials against those of then-Presidential candidate John McCain, adding “Please send this to your friends and colleagues who vote.” That was only one of 204 emails by the attorney that investigators thought were potentially unlawful under the Hatch Act, which bars political activity by civil servants in the workplace.
In a separate exchange, a former Education Department executive sent an email on her work account about an upcoming sportsman-themed fundraiser for the McCain campaign. “Feel free to forward this to anyone who you think might be interested in attending,” the message read. In all, 870 Education Department employees — roughly one out of five at the agency — were found by investigators to have sent at least one email containing the name of a 2008 political candidate. Of those employees, the department’s inspector general’s office referred 21 cases to the Office of Special Counsel, the government’s top enforcer of the Hatch Act.
The Hatch Act bars partisan activity by civil servants in the workplace. Among other activities, the Act prohibits “participation in political activities while on duty, in uniform, in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties.” The case raises questions about how committed agencies are to enforcing the Hatch Act as well as the amount of time spent by the employees reading and writing politically oriented emails.
Until recently, OSC had limited options in pursuing discipline. Violations meant automatic firing unless the Merit Systems Protection Board found, by unanimous vote, that a violation didn’t warrant firing, in which case suspension was an option. Under new rules put in place by Congress after this Education Department investigation, OSC now can also fine, suspend or reprimand employees.
July 26, 2013
OPM Proposes Broader Range of Penalties for Hatch Act Violations
Federal employees found to have violated the Hatch Act’s prohibitions on partisan politicking would face penalties ranging from a reprimand to a five-year ban from federal employment under proposed changes published in Wednesday's Federal Register.
Up to now, the only sanction has been automatic firing, unless the three-member Merit Systems Protection Board unanimously agreed to impose a 30-day unpaid suspension. As a result, agencies were sometimes reluctant to pursue minor infractions.
The Office of Personnel Management’s proposed changes follow up on the framework laid out in the Hatch Act Modernization Act, which Congress approved last December in part to give the board more flexibility. Under the proposal, violators could face the following sanctions: Removal, reduction-in-grade, debarment from federal employment for up to five years, suspension, reprimand or a $1,000 fine. The MSPB would also no longer have to vote unanimously to impose lesser penalties.
OPM is taking public comments on the proposal through Sept. 23.
July 12, 2013
Employee emails searched in Hatch Act probe
Thousands of employees in the Education Department had their email accounts scoured for correspondence in 2008 where the subject lines of messages contained the words Obama or McCain. The previously undisclosed probe by the Education Department’s Office of Inspector General sought to identify employees running afoul of the Hatch Act, which bars partisan political activity while on official duty.
The investigation, which closed last year and was disclosed after a Freedom of Information Act request by Federal Times, found that 870 employees had sent an email with the name of a 2008 presidential candidate in the subject line. In its more recent budget request, the department reported employing 4,266 full-time employees.
The IG’s technology crimes division narrowed that list to 21 employees by limiting its investigation to those who met one of several thresholds: employees who sent 35 or more such emails, employees who sent five or more messages involving rallies, employees in supervisory roles who sent five or more such messages, or employees who sent one or more emails involving campaign fundraising.
The IG’s office sent the 21 cases to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), which enforces the Hatch Act. Three employees resigned. Of the remaining 18 employees, OSC found six clearly violated the act, but none were disciplined. Instead, the six received written warnings.
December 04, 2012
Senate Approves Hatch Act Update
The Senate has unanimously approved the first Hatch Act reform measure in nearly 20 years, paving the way for some state and local government officials to run for partisan elected office.
The 2012 Hatch Act Modernization Act would ensure state and municipal employees whose salaries come entirely from federal funds remain prohibited from seeking elected office, but would lift the ban for others. Currently, all non-federal government employees who receive any federal funds are barred from running for office. The bill also would expand the options for penalizing federal employees who violate the law. As it currently stands, these employees face immediate termination.
November 14, 2012
OSC Ok's Wearing Campaign ShirtsFederal employees won’t violate the Hatch Act by wearing clothing or carrying items from presidential campaigns to work, but they still are prohibited by law from donning or displaying paraphernalia that directly support a political party or group, according to an advisory memo from the federal government’s independent investigative body.
September 24, 2012
Fine Line Between Official and Political SpeechGovernment Executive reports on the legal issues involved with executive-branch officials speaking at campaign events.
September 13, 2012
OSC Finds HHS Chief Violated Hatch Act
Government Executive reports the Office of Special Counsel found that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius violated a law limiting political activity in the federal workplace when she made off-the-cuff remarks at an official event in February.
OSC-- responsible for enforcing the Hatch Act -- found Sebelius guilty of making “extemporaneous partisan remarks” when delivering the keynote speech in her official capacity at the Human Rights Campaign Gala in North Carolina.At the event, Sebelius endorsed the Democratic candidate for governor in North Carolina, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton. She also told the audience it was “hugely important to make sure that we reelect the president.”
July 04, 2012
OSC Posts Press Release on New Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012
See the press release here.
April 12, 2012
OSC new Q&A on use of title
From the Office of Special Counsel Hatch Act (Apr. 12, 2012):
"Recently the Office of Special Counsel’s Hatch Act Unit has received several questions regarding whether a Cabinet secretary may use the title “Secretary” when engaged in political activity, such as speaking at a political campaign event. The following Q&A was written in response to those questions. It will be posted on [OSC's] website.
"Q: When engaging in political activity (i.e., activity directed at the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group), such as speaking at a political campaign event, may a Cabinet secretary use the title “Secretary?”
"A: No. Hatch Act regulation states that an employee may not use his or her official title while participating in political activity. 5 C.F.R. § 734.302(b)(1). Accordingly, a Cabinet secretary may not use the official title “Secretary” when engaging in political activity, such as speaking at a political campaign event. However, a Cabinet secretary may use a general form of address, such as “The Honorable,” when engaging in political activity, as such address does not identify his or her position. 5 C.F.R. § 734.302, Example 1.
"... if you have any Hatch Act related questions, feel free to contact the Hatch Act Unit at 202-254-3650 or send an e-mail to Hatchact@osc.gov."
April 11, 2012
One IEC member was unable to download the Hatch Act PowerPoint show distributed here recently. Here are some suggestions, for those who might experience similar problems:
In a sometimes misguided attempt to bolster security, some agencies install arbitrary automated rules limiting downloads from certain sites, or certain types of files. For some reason, the Army was particularly prone to such errors a few years ago. It sounds like you are experiencing a similar problem.
In my experience, if you can find the right person on your IT staff and patiently explain the error to the right person, they will usually correct their mistake. I’ve generally found it easier to get the file I need by accessing IEC Journal from a computer that is not under agency control.
Usually I would suggest a third troubleshooting technique: Download the slide show from the OSC web site (in case the filter in question gave preference to .gov domain websites). However, on a quick search, I was unable to locate the slide show there.
April 09, 2012
Hatch Act Resources
With a national election looming, it is the season for Hatch Act awareness and training. Our Hatch Act archives are one source. For a sample of the lighter touch, try Rosa Koppel's Hatch Act poem, published here last year.
April 04, 2012
April 2012 IEC Presentation Materials: OSC Hatch Act Hot Topics
[UPDATED] Here are the handouts for this week's IEC presentation:
- Power Point Presentation: Download 2012 Hot Topics
- Updated OSC Social Media Hatch Act Guidance: Download Social Media and the Hatch Act 2012
- OSC Advisory Opinions:
Please print out and bring to the presentation.
UPDATED: OSC Social Media Hatch Act guidance
The updated guidance modifies OSC's position on Further Restricted employees Facebook activities.
"OSC now advises that, regardless of the employee’s privacy settings, the Hatch Act would not prohibit a further restricted employee from 'following' the Twitter account of a political party, partisan group, or partisan candidate’s campaign. Similarly, the Hatch Act would not prohibit a further restricted employee from becoming a 'friend' of or 'liking' a political party, partisan group, or candidate’s Facebook page. OSC does not view such activity as active participation in partisan political campaigning."
However, Further Restricted employee could violate the Hatch Act (by "active participation in partisan political campaigning") with posts and comments on these entities’ Facebook pages or Twitter accounts, and Facebook “share” or “re-share” or Twitter "re-tweets" from these entities.
See the updated guidance at: Download Social Media and the Hatch Act 2012
March 10, 2012
Proposed Hatch Act Reform Bill Status
Talking Points Memo has an update on the status of the proposed Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012.
March 08, 2012
Hatch Act Proposal
Thanks to Jack Fisher for alerting us to a Federal Times article on possible Hatch Act amendments.
February 24, 2012
Hatch Act Training Materials
Looking for fodder for your election year Hatch Act training? The Hatch Act section of the Office of Special Counsel website is a good place to start. The archives of our Hatch Act category provide examples and related material.
We welcome your suggestions as to other sources.
February 22, 2012
NPR Interview with OSC Head Lerner
NPR has a transcript of its January interview with Carolyn Lerner, head of the U.S. Office of Special Counselt.
February 01, 2012
An Ounce of Prevention, Hatch Act-Style
Thanks to Wayne Johnson for alerting us to the Office of Special Counsel's expansive policy on Hatch Act training:
Now that the 2012 President election season is under way, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is offering to provide agencies with speakers regarding the Hatch Act. To that end, OSC Hatch Act Unit attorneys will give training attendees an informative presentation on the statute and its political activity restrictions as well as provide many examples of permitted and prohibited activities and field any questions that attendees might have.
To request someone from the Hatch Act Unit to speak at an agency training session or event, you should complete the speaker request form found at http://www.osc.gov/outreachRequestOSCspeaker.htm. Once completed, fax the form to OSC Outreach at (202) 653-5161.
For additional information about the training OSC provides, you may contact Shirine Moazed, Washington Field Office Chief, at (202) 254-3600 or click on the following link http://www.osc.gov/outreach.htm which will direct you to the section of OSC’s website that discusses the outreach / training program.
December 30, 2011
Praise for Active New OSC Chief
The Washington Post had a profile of new Office of Special Counsel head Carolyn Lerner. Here's an excerpt:
Since she took over the obscure investigative unit that reviews disclosures of government wrongdoing — and advocates for employees who are punished for reporting it — the employment and civil rights lawyer, 46, has shown a willingness to shake things up.
In several high-profile cases, Lerner has gone to the mat and tried to expand the boundaries of the law’s protections for whistleblowers. She has lifted long-sagging morale at an agency that, instead of behaving as an independent watchdog, has treaded water for much of its existence.
Lerner’s staff is tackling neglected cases, in contrast to her predecessor, whose office had thrown many out, and claims have shot up since she arrived, Lerner says. She has challenged judgments by the panel that decides civil service disputes. And she has called for wholesale changes to the law prohibiting politicking by public employees so local and state workers can run for office, even if their jobs are tied to federal funding.
December 29, 2011
Dept. of Education IG Investigates Misuse of Information
POGO selected a lengthy POGO blog post discusses an investigation by Department of Education Inspector General Kathy Tighe into improper use of government information as one of its top 10 posts of 2011. Here's an excerpt:
Among other things, Tighe will examine whether confidential DoED information and draft documents, including one produced by her own office, were transferred to Wall Street short-sellers seeking informational advantage in their bets on the future of the $35 billion for-profit education industry. Beyond the propriety of the Education Department's conduct, the phenomenon raises broader questions about the integrity of government decision-making in the face of relentless Wall Street scrutiny.
The case is also among the latest high-profile examples of Wall Street or individual investors trying to access non-public government information. Another involves a Food and Drug Administration chemist who in March was alleged to have misappropriated confidential agency information about drug tests to make $3.6 million in the stock market.
November 30, 2011
NPR Story on Office of Special Counsel
National Public Radio has a positive story available about the turnaround at the Office of Special Counsel. Here's an excerpt:
If [new Special Counsel Carolyn] Lerner keeps up her recent pace, the office may not remain secret for much longer. She went public earlier this month with a report critical of personnel decisions by the Air Force. Lerner raised questions about whether the Air Force had inadequately disciplined managers at the mortuary at Dover Air Force Base, where three whistle-blowers reported that remains of dead American service members had been mishandled.
"Because we're independent, we really can be an objective source for reviewing what the agency's internal investigations uncover and pointing out problems with those investigations," Lerner says. "If there are still questions that remain, we can raise them."
Debra Katz, a Washington employment lawyer who's followed the office for decades, took note.
"By taking the position that she did, and making it clear she was not going to be a wallflower or someone who could just be walked over, but she would go toe-to-toe with the Air Force, she sent a very strong message that whistle-blowers would be protected," Katz says.
November 01, 2011
OSC Director's comments on proposed legislation
- POLITICO recent article on OSC Director's comments about the need to update and revise the Hatch Act. See http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1011/67207.html#ixzz1cPUTfO9b.
- Full OSC Director's NY Times op-ed at: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/31/opinion/the-hatch-act-a-law-misused.html?_r=1&ref=opinion.
- Proposed legislation: http://www.osc.gov/documents/press/2011/pr11_16ha.pdf
October 10, 2011
OSC Proposes Hatch Act Changes
The Office of Special Counsel has proposed legislative changes to the Hatch Act, including adding graduated penalty options to the only choices are not firing or 30 day suspension.
September 28, 2011
New DOD SOCO Advisory Published
SOCO Advisory 11-04 is available. The topics include:
1. Hatch Act Guidance for Civilian Employees
2. 2011 National Emergency Extended by President
3. Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure update
4. Combined Federal Campaign
September 06, 2011
Two Federal Employees Disciplined for Political Activity
An Office of Special Counsel press release reports on two employees who were disciplined for prohibited political activity.
In one case an NIH employee was fired for soliciting political contributions and inviting 63 people, including other NIH employees, to a political fundraiser at her home in Bowie, Maryland. The administrative law judge explained that the
[T]he intent of the Hatch Act is to ensure that federal employees may exercise their right to participate or to refrain from participating in the political processes of the Nation. This right is inhibited if other employees in the federal workforce solicit campaign contributions through the agency’s e‐mail system or make political contributions using government computers while on duty [or] on government property.
The other case involved a New Jersey state employee who worked on federally funded contracts. He agreed to retire and was barred from employment with any state or local agency within the State of New Jersey for 15 months.
August 28, 2011
Hatch Act Loosening in King George, VA?
According to Government Executive:
Most federal employees living in King George County, Va., would be partially exempt from restrictions on political activity under a proposed rule from the Office of Personnel Management.
July 14, 2011
House Committee Hearing Explores Hatch Act Problems
The June 28 edition of the Washington Post's Federal Diary column summarized problems with the Hatch Act explored at a recent hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee meeting. It makes for some interesting reading. The conclusion:
Revisions are on the horizon, and they’ll probably find support from both Republicans and Democrats on a panel often riven by partisanship. Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) opened the hearing by saying “inconsistencies within the act and/or loopholes need to be reviewed.” And the top Democrat on the panel, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, said he looks forward to working with Issa “on bipartisan legislation to update and clarify the Hatch Act.”
June 22, 2011
More ethics related news items
Government press releases on misconduct:
- Bureau of Prisons employee indicted for selling govt equipment. http://www.justice.gov/oig/reports/press/2011/2011_06_09a.pdf
- FEMA employee charged with embezzling $149K. http://www.dhs.gov/xoig/assets/press/oigpr_040811.pdf
- Former supervisory at US Customs & Immigration Service convicted of bribery. http://www.dhs.gov/xoig/assets/press/oigpr_050311.pdf
- Coast Guard Officer indicted in kickback scheme in Coast Guard contracting. http://www.dhs.gov/xoig/assets/press/oigpr_060911.pdf
- Army Sergent indicted in bribery scheme related to govt contracting. http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2011/June/11-crm-809.html
Other news articles:
- The Hill's report on corrupation in the Customs & Border Protection Agency. http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/165925-corruption-a-problem-at-customs-and-border-protection-agency-head-says
- GovExec article on the Congressional testimony by Ana Galinda-Marrone, Chief of the Hatch Act unit at the Office of Special Counsel re complaints of inappropriate partisan political activity in Federal workplace. http://www.govexec.com/story_page.cfm?articleid=48056&dcn=e_gvet
June 13, 2011
New Hatch Act Posters Available
The Office of Special Counsel recently added two revised posters to its website. Both are available here:
- The Hatch Act and Federal Employee
- The Hatch Act and Further Restricted Federal Employee
June 09, 2011
Another Hatch Act E-Mail Case
A June 8 OSC press release describes a new enforcement action:
OSC’s complaint, filed with the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), charges the employee with violating the Hatch Act by sending eight e-mails to numerous recipients that were directed toward the success or failure of candidates in the 2008 Presidential election. The e-mails were sent while the employee was on duty and in the federal workplace. The employee used her government e-mail account to send the messages, each of which featured her official government title. In addition, one of the employee’s e-mails, which she sent to 20 recipients, included a request for financial contributions on behalf of a Presidential campaign. OSC’s investigation showed that the employee knew or should have known about the Hatch Act and its restrictions.
June 08, 2011
Waxing Poetic About The Hatch Act
The most recent issue of the Federal Labor Relations Authority's in-house newsletter contains a wonderful poetic treatment of the "Federal Employee's Cheat Sheet on the Hatch Act," inspired by OSC's recent update of its Hatch Act Q & As:
In the right hands, creative material like this can be a fantastic spark for ethics training, via newsletters or as a part of live training.
Distributing material like this is one of the main purposes of this website, and we very much appreciate Rosa Koppel's sharing it with us. Please follow her example, and let us know when you create or come across something that could be of use to your fellow toilers in the vineyard.
May 27, 2011
Gonzales Expresses Regret Over Politicized DOJ Hiring
Excerpts from a Legal Times BLT blog post:
Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has said for the first time that "I am disappointed that I didn't do things differently" to stop the politicization of the system of hiring career Justice Department attorneys through its honors program during his time in office. ...
Internal investigations of the honors and summer intern programs that were made public in 2008 found that Department officials did Internet searches to investigate the applicants' political and ideological affiliations, added that information to applicants' files, and used it to "deselect" some of those who would otherwise have been interviewed and hired. One candidate was nixed because he had run for office as a Green Party candidate. The suit as it now stands is based mainly on the Privacy Act, which bars the government from maintaining records about individuals' exercise of First Amendment rights unless authorized by law.
TPM Muckraker has a copy of the former Attorney General's depostion.
May 13, 2011
More FAQs from the Office of Special Counsel
On May 12, 2011, OSC issued more Frequently Asked Questions focused on Presidential appointee with Senate confirmation (or PAS). The questions and answer are already posted on their website at http://www.osc.gov/haFederalfaq.htm. The questions include:
- I am an employee who was appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. Am I covered by the Hatch Act?
- I am an employee who was appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. Does the exemption from the Hatch Act’s prohibition against engaging in political activity while on duty, which applies to me, also apply to my staff?
- May a Presidential appointee with Senate confirmation (PAS) ask a subordinate schedule C or non-career senior executive service appointee (or any other subordinate federal employee) to write a policy speech for the PAS to give at a partisan political event?
- May an employee appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate (PAS), ask his chief of staff (or any other subordinate employee) to contact and/or liaison with a political party to find out where, or if, the party needs the PAS’s help?
- May a Presidential appointee with Senate confirmation (PAS) ask his executive assistant (or any other subordinate employee) to attend a political party meeting that the PAS is scheduled to attend but is now unable to do so?
If you have any Hatch Act related questions, OSC's Hatch Act unit is available at 202-254-3650 or Hatchact@osc.gov.
May 10, 2011
OSC additional guidance on photos of the President & Vice President
On April 5, 2011, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) issued guidance regarding pictures of President Obama in the federal workplace now that he is officially a candidate for reelection. That opinion can be found on our website: http://www.osc.gov/documents/hatchact/federal/2011-04-05%20FAQ%20Re%20Presidential%20photographs%20and%20candidacy%20for%20reelection.pdf.
Since issuing that opinion, OSC has received several inquiries regarding pictures of Vice President Biden. In a listserve email, OSC advises that the guidance we issued about pictures of President Obama also applies to pictures of Vice President Biden.
In addition, OSC has been asked whether employees appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate (PAS’s), should follow this same guidance. They confirmed, certain PAS’s, who meet the criteria set forth in 5 U.S.C. § 7324(b), are exempt from the Hatch Act’s prohibition against engaging in political activity while on duty, in a federal room or building, while wearing an official uniform, or using a government vehicle. The legislative history of the political activity exemption of 5 U.S.C. § 7324(b) reveals that it is a narrow exemption created to accommodate high-level political officials who would never have an opportunity to engage in political activity because they are on duty or on call by the President at all times. H.R. Rep. No. 103-16, at 22 (1993). The exemption was never intended to allow a PAS to engage in excessive political activity while on duty or in a government building. See id. Furthermore, a PAS who is exempt from these political activity restrictions is still subject to the restriction against using his official authority or influence for the purpose of affecting the results of a partisan election.
Therefore, PAS’s should not engage in any activity that would implicitly coerce subordinate employees to support a candidate in a partisan election. Accordingly, OSC has advised PAS’s not to display partisan campaign materials in the federal workspace. In the same vein, OSC would advise PAS’s to follow OSC’s April 5, 2011, guidance regarding Presidential photographs.
If you have any Hatch Act related questions, OSC's Hatch Act unit is available at 202-254-3650 or Hatchact@osc.gov.
May 06, 2011
New OSC Q&A for Federal Employees
On May 6, 2011, in an effort to continue providing Hatch Act advice the Office of Special Counsel posted two new frequently asked questions and answers on its website:
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Will I violate the Hatch Act if I listen to radio programs discussing partisan politics or candidates for partisan political office, or read a book about politics or political candidates while I am in the federal workplace?
Answer: No. Some federal agencies allow employees to listen to the radio while they are at work. Merely listening to a radio program that is discussing politics while in the federal workplace, without more, is not a Hatch Act violation. Similarly, merely reading a book about politics or political candidates while in the federal workplace, without more, is not a Hatch Act violation. However, employees should make certain that the federal agency where they work does not have any internal policies prohibiting its employees from generally engaging in any of these activities while at work, (i.e., listening to the radio, reading
Is it a Hatch Act violation for a federal agency to have televisions in the federal workplace that are tuned to stations such as Fox News or MSNBC?
Answer: No. Watching, or allowing the broadcast of, stations such as Fox News or MSNBC in the federal workplace, without more, does not violate the Hatch Act. Thus, while some federal agencies may have televisions located in lobbies or other public areas within a federal workplace that are tuned to such stations the Hatch Act does not prohibit them from doing so.
See all FAQ at http://www.osc.gov/haFederalfaq.htm
April 06, 2011
New OSC Guidance on Displaying Presidential Photos in the Federal Workplace
Because President Obama has declared his candidacy for 2012, the Office of Special Counsel issued guidance concerning the display of Presidential photographs in the federal workplace. OSC advised that those with questions should contact the Hatch Act Unit at 202-254-3650 or Hatchact@osc.gov.
March 17, 2011
Government Executive's Hatch Act Basics
Government Executive's list of "The Basics" Federal managers need to know includes a section with a pretty good short summary of the Hatch Act and, perhaps more useful, a bibliography of stories from the magazine involving the Hatch Act.
Government Executive's list of "The Basics" Federal managers need to know includes a section with a pretty good short summary of the Hatch Act and, perhaps more useful, a bibliography of stories from the magazine involving the Hatch Act.
March 14, 2011
MSPB Approves Firing for Hatch Act Violation
An OSC press release issued today indicates that the MSPB has upheld the firing of a VA doctor for Hatch Act violations: