Special Counsel Slaps Biden Chief of Staff Klain With Hatch Act Warning
By Jay Clemons | Thursday, 27 October 2022 03:38 PM EDT
White House chief of staff Ron Klain has been issued a warning from the Office of Special Counsel regarding an apparent rules violation that prohibits federal government officials from engaging in campaign activity while actively holding their position.
According to the OSC, Klain retweeted a May post from a Democratic political committee, which could be construed as a possible violation of the Hatch Act.
The Hill reports that May message included information about "infant formula deliveries," but also featured a call to purchase Democratic-branded merchandise.
The Hatch Act of 1939 limits certain political activities of federal employees — along with some state, District of Columbia and local government officials — who work in connection with federally funded programs.
The law's intended purposes are to "ensure that 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."
Forbes says the Hatch Act is a relatively "obscure" law on the American books.
According to Forbes, the law's origins involved officials working in President Franklin Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration being accused of offering "agency jobs in exchange for votes in a Kentucky Senate election, lawmakers rushed to codify anti-patronage rules through the Hatch Act, which, in short, aims to ensure that government works for all Americans, not just the politically connected or empowered."
During the Trump administration, Forbes also reports that five White House officials — chief of staff Mark Meadows, deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino, Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff Marc Short, senior adviser Ivanka Trump and senior counselor Kellyanne Conway — were accused of committing Hatch Act violations.
Regarding Klain's case, America First Legal, a conservative legal group led by former Trump White House aide Stephen Miller, initially informed the OSC about Klain's conduct on Twitter.
After investigating the matter, the OSC revealed that Klain rescinded his Twitter post, but still received a warning from the agency.
"Ron is very careful and takes the Hatch Act very seriously in his media appearances and his use of Twitter, but he got it wrong this time and he tweeted something that was political," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre recently told reporters aboard Air Force One.
"He fixed it as soon as it was pointed out, and takes the warning to be more careful seriously. That’s very different than the prior crew here at the White House before us previously that blatantly, openly and carelessly violated the Hatch Act repeatedly," Jean-Pierre added.