OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
A member of Joe Biden’s team has just been hit with a violation of The Hatch Act by the US Office of Special Counsel.
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge was cited with violating the Act, which limits federal civilian executive branch employees engagement in political activities, when she commented on Ohio politics this year from the White House podium, CNN reported.
Fudge, who joined White House press secretary Jen Psaki at a briefing in March, was asked about the special election to fill her vacant seat in Congress.
Though Fudge declined to weigh in on the House race, she told reporters she thought Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and US Rep. Tim Ryan, both Democrats, were strong candidates to fill the seat currently occupied by Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who announced in January he would not seek reelection when his current term ends in 2022. Both have since launched campaigns — Ryan for the Senate seat and Whaley for governor of Ohio.
According to the US Office of Special Counsel, the agency charged with investigating Hatch Act violations, the rule prohibits federal employees from “using their official titles or positions while engaged in political activity,” including “any activity directed at the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.”
On March 24, 2021 a complaint against Fudge was filed by the conservative watchdog group, Americans For Public Trust.
“In her first official appearance, Secretary Fudge discussed an upcoming Ohio Senate race in 2022 and advocated for a Democrat party victory. Secretary Fudge used her first official appearance to discuss politics rather than focus on official business. Previously, she has criticized other cabinet secretaries for such activity. This is a clear violation of the Hatch Act and a destruction of public trust,” it said.
OSC’s Hatch Act Unit Chief, Ana Galindo-Marrone, said that Fudge had violated the act in a letter dated May 13.
“By stating, for example, that ‘we have a good shot at it’ and ‘I believe we can win the Senate race,’ Secretary Fudge showed support for the Democratic Party with respect to the Ohio Senate race while speaking in her official capacity,” it said. “Accordingly, OSC has concluded that she violated the Hatch Act during her official appearance at the March 18 press briefing.”
Because Fudge “expressed remorse” and acknowledged that she should not have made the comment, the “OSC has closed this matter by issuing her a warning letter.”
“Please note that Secretary Fudge has been advised that if in the future she engages in prohibited political activity we will consider such activity to be a willful and knowing violation of the law that could result in further action,” Galindo-Marrone said.
At the March White House press briefing a reporter questioned Fudge, “So how about the Senate race in your state? Is there Democrats who should run?”
“Well, I have two friends that are thinking about it. Tim Ryan, of course, is thinking about it. I understand that [inaudible 00:18:47] is thinking about it. I think we’re going to put a good person in that race no matter who we choose, but they’re both friends. I think we have a good shot at it. I know people had written off Ohio. I haven’t written off Ohio. I believe we can win the Senate race,” she said.
Fudge was confirmed just days before making that statement.
“The past year has reminded us just how important it is to have a safe and stable place to call home. But, right now — for millions of Americans — that sense of security and peace of mind is out of reach,” she said in a video after she was sworn in.