Both Parties Are Hereby Ethically Estopped From Accusing Each Other’s Officials Of Violating The Hatch Act

However, such violations are still unethical and illegal…but laws are for the little people. Bush officials violated the Hatch Act. Obama Cabinet members Kathleen Sibelius and Julian Castro violated the Hatch Act. Kellyanne Conway and Mike Pompeo, among others, violated the Hatch Act in the Trump administration. Ethics Alarms explained,

The Hatch Act is a perfect example of the principle that if people can cheat to obtain power or keep power, they will, if they know the penalties will be minimal or less….The Hatch Act isn’t enforced, so all administrations allow their officials to violate it. I don’t know if the law is enforceable. It is naive and irresponsible to expect …any Presidential underlings regardless of party to eschew this unethical practice when they know they can get away with it, and the potential benefits of the violations are significant….enforce the Hatch Act, or get rid of it.

The 1939  law known as the Hatch Act prohibits Federal employees from using their position to campaign for political candidate. You knew that, right? Now the U.S. Office of Special Counsel has found that Biden Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm violated the Hatch Act when she participated in an interview in October of 2021 and urged viewers to vote for Democrats. Oh, she used lawyerly weasel words to try to get around the law, saying, “I am using Democrats as a substitute for the policies that you believe in, the policies that you would like to see happen. And what I say to people all the time is the most important thing you can do is make your voice heard. Vote!”

It still meant “Vote for Democrats!” Yet though Granholm has been deemed guilty of violating the Hatch Act, no punishment will be forthcoming.  Why? Because Granholm claims she didn’t realize she was violating the Hatch Act.

The Special Counsel’s letter explains.

“Although the [Office of Special Counsel] concluded Secretary Granholm violated the Hatch Act, the evidence gathered during our investigation does not support the conclusion that it was a knowing violation. Specifically, OSC learned that, before the interview, she had not received significant training about the Hatch Act’s use of official authority prohibition.”

Sure. Tell me another. Granholm is a lawyer and longtime government official. She has a law degree from Harvard Law School, served as a clerk for a U.S. Court of Appeals judge, and worked as an assistant U.S. Attorney before she served as Michigan’s attorney general. But she didn’t understand the Hatch Act, even though she said during the same interview where she violated it, “I’m subject to something called the Hatch Act.”

But she wasn’t trained in the Hatch Act, see, so that means she can’t be punished for violating it. What a great loophole! As long as an administration doesn’t train its members in a law they want to break, they can break it!

Never mind that the legal principle has existed for centuries that “ignorance of the law” is no excuse—especially for lawyers.

But the Special Counsel wasn’t trained in that rule, so it doesn’t count.

4 thoughts on “Both Parties Are Hereby Ethically Estopped From Accusing Each Other’s Officials Of Violating The Hatch Act

  1. It seems that the Hatch Act is good in principle, but completely unworkable (at least for people as high up as Granholm). Cabinet members are high profile, are very public, but still political. They are such a close extension of the President their policies are practically his policies. It seems unreasonable to expect them not to promote their party while they are promoting the President’s policies, particularly around election time.

    Though, maybe I am not well-versed on the nuances of the statute.


  2. The gun communities are ablaze because a director of a butterfly sanctuary snatched a fully automatic M4 carbine from an unlocked National Guard vehicle on the sanctuary’s property, then posted about it on Twitter.

    That’s at least three 10-year felonies. Her header picture depicts someone throwing a Molotov cocktail and criticizes Steve Bannon. Probably best nobody hold their breath waiting for enforcement.

    • Arguably, the director has responsibility for safety at the sanctuary. If there were unsecure guns, then she has a duty to seize them to protect the public. This is a case where the ethical duty to protect may conflict with the letter of the law.

      Of course, it is likely a political stunt, but leaving the weapon unsecure is no different than leaving a handgun within the reach of a baby. The motivation for seizing the gun is irrelevant, as it is moral luck alone that it was benign. The National Guard bears the primary blame for leaving it unsecure; that it is a felony to steal the weapon is not mitigation; anyone who would commit a felony by shooting the gun at another person would not be deterred by it being a felony to steal the gun in the first place.

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