Betsy DeVos Facing Investigation For Hatch Act Violations
The Hatch Act prohibits most Federal government employees (the president and vice president are exempt) from political campaigning while representing the U.S. This would include while the official is on duty, in uniform, or otherwise apparently carrying out the duties of their office. Betsy DeVos is the latest in a string of Trump Administration officials to be accused of violating the law under the Hatch Act. So far, there have been few if any consequences to deter the administration from continuing to violate the Hatch Act with impunity.
According to the Washington Post, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is under investigation by the Office of the Special Counsel after using an interview on Fox News, where she spoke representing the Department of Education, to bash Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for President of the United States. The Checks and Balances Project, a political watchdog, filed a complaint after DeVos’ official channels then promoted the interview.
DeVos’ department responded by calling the complaint frivolous, saying that it is not based in fact, and that Secretary DeVos was merely discussing policy.
Forbes explained last month why there’s rarely any enforcement of the Hatch Act for this administration. The process begins with the Office of Special Counsel, which then refers cases to either the White House or the Merit Systems Protection Board for enforcement. The current head of the OSC, Republican Henry Kerner doesn’t move on a case until complaints are filed by outside groups. Even then, the office has been passing higher-level cases to the White House for enforcement, not the Merit Systems Protection Board.
This means that a dozen cases sitting open, including allegations that the Republican National Convention, held in part on the White House lawn, was rife with violations, it’s unlikely anyone in the Trump Administration will face consequences, unless it reaches the level of a criminal, rather than civil offense. It’s possible that this occurred if the president pressured officials into participating in Hatch Act violations, as has been alleged regarding some of the cases at the RNC, but there’s still no enforcement unless Federal law enforcement chooses to make a case.