On June 18, the office of special counsel, which has nothing to do with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, sent a copy of its May 30 report recommending that Kellyanne Conway be terminated for repeated violations of the Hatch Act. Not surprisingly, the president rejected the request.
In 2018 she was warned about her conduct of advocating for and against candidates in the Alabama special election. Recently she has repeatedly made comments about Democratic candidates for president while in her official duties. When questioned whether her conduct violated the Hatch Act, she responded, “Let them lock me up.” I guess she heard the line from the attorney general when he joked with the speaker about being locked up if he is held in contempt of Congress. Of course, she knows that the maximum penalty is termination of employment.
Our nation is a nation of laws. It sets a bad precedent when an important person in the administration deliberately violates the law, mocks it, and the president comes to her defense. There is a good reason why the law exists.
“The WPA, established in 1935, functioned as the largest relief program of the Roosevelt administration. Because of a recession, the WPA relief rolls expanded to 3.3 million workers shortly before the 1938 congressional elections. There were allegations concerning conduct that occurred in the 1938 congressional elections. It was discovered that WPA employees had contributed $24,000 to the campaign of Senator Alben Barkley. Democratic officials had solicited these funds directly, with WPA employees being canvassed to ascertain their party affiliations. In neighboring Tennessee, Senator Thomas Stewart had received substantial donations from federal civil service and relief employees, supposedly under “intimidation” and “coercion.” Pennsylvania Democrats also had solicited funds illegally by mailing letters bearing the name of Senator Joseph Guffey. WPA officials not only ordered workers to change their registrations from Republican to Democratic or face the loss of their jobs, but sold tickets at political gatherings to WPA Personnel.” (New Mexico Historical Review April 1973, The Hatch Act of 1939.)
As a result, Democrat Carl Hatch proposed legislation to stop this conduct. Imagine that happening today, where a member of the same party accused of misconduct is leading the charge to create a law to address it. Moreover, at that time the Democratic Party was in control of Congress and the White House, so he was proposing a law that would hurt those in power, which were from his party. It is more amazing that he was able to convince the president and a majority of Congress to go along with the legislation.
“The Hatch Act, a federal law passed in 1939, limits certain political activities of federal employees, as well as some state, D.C., and local government employees who work in connection with federally funded programs. The law’s 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.” (OSC.gov website.)
The irony is that Trump has been attacking existing members of the FBI or Mueller’s team as being Clinton supporters, or as he puts it, “angry Democrats.” It is totally legal for a federal employee to vote for who they want or be registered for a particular party. Yet the president has no problem when Kellyanne Conway violates the Hatch Act.
If the Hatch Act is going to be ignored, then federal workers now have to worry about being coerced to support a particular candidate or risk termination or other adverse workplace conduct.
Do we want a government where, from the top down, appointments are based on political considerations? One of the big complaints by some is that the government is too political.
Allowing Hatch Act violations will only make the fear into a reality. The country needs to have confidence in its institutions that they are acting in the public’s best interest and not the interest of one person or political party.
If this is not enough to convince the Trumpians why this is a bad idea, imagine a Democratic progressive president following Trump’s lead and politicalizing the government. As the old adage says, “What goes around comes around.”