The White House ran afoul of the Hatch Act after initial warning, government watchdog says
- December 1, 2023
Katherine Doyle, NBC News
WASHINGTON— Top White House spokespeople failed to comply with a law intended to prevent federal employees from using their offices to influence elections after press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was warned against using “MAGA” to describe certain Republicans, a government watchdog agency said.
Michael Chamberlain, a former Trump administration official who now runs a conservative watchdog group called Protect the Public’s Trust, said the OSC’s failure to enforce the Hatch Act after Jean-Pierre and Bates “doubled down” on political speech shows the law to be toothless against those who violate it when they serve at high levels of government.
“Apparently, nobody takes the Hatch Act very seriously, at least nobody that matters. Ms. Jean-Pierre cites it frequently to avoid tough questions, but when she and her deputy received the initial warning from OSC, they doubled down,” Chamberlain said. “They probably guessed there would be no consequences, and the OSC appears to have proven them correct.”
Protect the Public’s Trust filed a Hatch Act complaint against Jean-Pierre and Bates in June, charging that their statements “appear to be a deliberate thumb in the eye” of the OSC’s authority.
“Your letter advised Ms. Jean-Pierre ‘that should she again engage in prohibited political activity, OSC would consider it a knowing and willful violation of the law that could result in OSC pursuing disciplinary action.’ That is precisely what Ms. Jean-Pierre has done,” Chamberlain wrote. “It further is highly unlikely that the phrase ‘MAGA’ appeared in two separate White House Press Office documents on the same day by accident.”