Will Trump Reprimand Kellyanne Conway for Hatch Act Violations?

You might be forgiven for thinking that the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has something to do with Robert Mueller and the Russia investigation, but it is a completely separate institution. The OSC is charged with policing the U.S. civil service, basically, both to protect the workforce and to prevent violations of the Hatch Act.

The Hatch Act has nothing to do with the increasingly erratic Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah. It’s a law that was passed in 1939 which prohibits employees in the executive branch of the federal government from using their official positions to engage in political activity.

The 1939 Act forbids the intimidation or bribery of voters and restricts political campaign activities by federal employees. It prohibits using any public funds designated for relief or public works for electoral purposes. It forbids officials paid with federal funds from using promises of jobs, promotion, financial assistance, contracts, or any other benefit to coerce campaign contributions or political support. It provides that persons below the policy-making level in the executive branch of the federal government must not only refrain from political practices that would be illegal for any citizen, but must abstain from “any active part” in political campaigns…

Specifically, executive branch employees may not engage in political activity while “on duty, in a government office, wearing an official uniform, or using a government vehicle.”

The OSC has determined that Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act and has sent a letter and report to President Trump explaining their reasoning. Conway broke the law twice while discussing the special election for Senate in Alabama between Republican sexual predator Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones:

During the “Fox & Friends” interview November 20, Conway was introduced by the show’s hosts as a “counselor to President Trump” and spoke from White House grounds. She said about Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones: “Folks, don’t be fooled. He’ll be a vote against tax cuts. He’s weak on crime, weak on borders. He’s strong on raising your taxes. He’s terrible for property owners.”

During the “New Day” interview December 6, Conway — again speaking from White House grounds and introduced by CNN anchor Chris Cuomo as “counselor to President Trump” — said among other things that Jones will be a reliable vote “for tax hikes,” “against border security,” “against national security,” “against the Second Amendment” and “against life,” according to the OSC report.

Conway went on to tell Cuomo that Jones is “out of step for Alabama voters, according to the President,” and that Trump “doesn’t want a liberal Democrat representing Alabama in the United States Senate.”

The OSC told the president that these violations “occurred after Conway received significant training on Hatch Act prohibitions” and that he should consider “appropriate disciplinary action.” And that’s where the law here kind of breaks down.

Hatch Act violations committed by White House staff are typically handled by the president. Consequences for violating the law range from an official reprimand to a civil penalty of up to $1,000. Other penalties include suspension, termination or even debarment from federal employment for up to five years.

Punishment is wholly at the discretion of the president, which seems like a wee bit of a flaw even when you have a normal occupant in the Oval Office. Wouldn’t it be better to have at least a minimum guaranteed penalty like that $1,000 fine and then give the president the ability to impose additional penalties if warranted?

In any case, Kellyanne Conway is currently a finalist in the game of Survivor to see which member of the Trump campaign is the last to leave the White House. Even with this unwelcome referral from the OSC, she still seems to have better odds than Ivanka and Jared. I doubt Trump will do anything about her violations of the law because he wanted her pushing for the election of a child molester.

So, don’t hold your breath waiting for a reprimand.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.