A brief history of the Hatch Act and its lengthy list of violators
Before Mike Pompeo gave his speech to the Republican National Convention while on a tax-funded trip to Jerusalem and before Chad Wolf conducted a citizen naturalization ceremony broadcast to roughly the same crowd, there was Kellyanne Conway, Kellyanne Conway, and Kellyanne Conway, casually and chronically violating the Hatch Act.
But in response to the ethical allegations against them fellow cabinet member, Secretary Pompeo was curt.
“Nobody outside the beltway cares.”
And yes, he’s mostly right. You and I don’t care. But, should we?
The Hatch Act of 1939 is a law to keep government neutral by limiting the political freedoms of its employees and officials. Only the president and vice-president are exempt from its constraints. The bill became law under the FDR administration and was amended in 2012 to modernize its impact.
Needless to say, Senator Hatch would not be happy with the state of politics today.
Although the punishment is lopsided, there have been multiple violations by high profile cabinet members in the Obama and Trump administrations.
Obama 2012 — Kathleen Sebelius Secretary of Health and Human Services was charged with violating the Hatch Act for “extemporaneous partisan remarks” made while endorsing a North Carolina gubernatorial candidate.
Obama 2016 — Julián Castro Housing and Urban Development Secretary went on Katie Couric and promoted the then-presidential candidate, Hilary Clinton. That was enough to elicit a formal violation against the diplomat.
Trump 2016 — — The current administration has been racking up violations like teenagers rack up speeding tickets for the last three years. See above.
Yes, we should care about the Hatch Act.
Some violations are worse than others. But, using tax revenue for a trip to the holy land, to give a speech to millions of religious voters, seems like a pretty unfair advantage.
On the other hand, the high profile Hatch Act violators are subject to the mercy of the people who appointed them to their positions. Not a bad deal if you’re running for reelection, but when you’re an average citizen it kind of makes you wonder where your democracy went.