The Department of Justice’s Office of the Special Counsel issued a blistering memo Thursday accusing White Houes senior adviser Kellyanne Conway of being a “repeat offender” of the Hatch Act and suggesting she should be removed from the President’s staff immediately.
U.S. Office of Special Counsel finds Kellyanne Conway repeatedly violated the Hatch Act: “Given that Ms. Conway is a repeat offender and has shown disregard for the law, OSC recommends that she be removed from federal service.” https://t.co/97JW3IKhMW pic.twitter.com/yF4a6t6c9Y
— Dan Linden (@DanLinden) June 13, 2019
The Office of the Special Counsel, which has no relation to Special Counsel Robert Mueller (who has since left his job, anyway), issued the report Thursday morning as part of an ongoing, non-partisan watchdog investigation into members of the Executive Branch. In it, the OSC cites several instances where Kellyanne Conway appeared to go out of her way to engage in “politicking” — that is, engaging in political activity or endorsing a political candidate, in violation of the Hatch Act of 1939.
Most notably, the report says, Conway made comments in favor of the then-Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama, Roy Moore, and against Moore’s opponent, Doug Jones, who went on to win the race.
“Doug Jones in Alabama, folks don’t be fooled,” Conway reportedly said in one of her interviews on Fox News. “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. And Doug Jones is a doctrinaire liberal, which is why he’s not saying anything and why the media are trying to boost him.”
The OSC also, ABC News reports, cited instances where Conway spoke out about former Vice President Joe Biden and socialist Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
“Ms. Conway’s disregard for the restrictions the Hatch Act places on on executive branch employees in unacceptable,” the report reads. “If Ms. Conway were any other federal employee, her multiple violations of the law would almost certainly result in removal from her position by the Merit Systems Protection Board.”
“As a highly visible member of the administration, Ms. Conway’s violations, if left unpunished, send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions. Her actions erode the principal foundation of our democratic system – the rule of law,” it continues.
Conway has been officially reprimanded but not severely punished for these kinds of statements before, so it’s probably unlikely that she’ll be severely punished — or booted from the White House — for these kinds of statements now. In response to the report, the White House called the entire OSC investigation “deeply flawed.”
“The Office of Special Counsel’s (OSC) unprecedented actions against Kellyanne Conway are deeply flawed and violate her constitutional rights to free speech and due process,” a spokesperson for the White House told reporters in a statement. “Others, of all political views, have objected to the OSC’s unclear and unevenly applied rules which have a chilling effect on free speech for all federal employees. Its decisions seem to be influenced by media pressure and liberal organizations – and perhaps OSC should be mindful of its own mandate to act in a fair, impartial, non-political manner, and not misinterpret or weaponize the Hatch Act.”
The Hatch Act was developed and passed in 1939, but has been relatively unchallenged since the late 1970s, when te Supreme Court ruled that it did not violate the First Amendment rights of Executive Branch officials and others to bar them from openly politicking during their tenure. Although it does not appear Conway is about to suffer any consequences of her statements, if she did, she could challenge that ruling again, now decades later.