Letter: Two Standards

Letter to the Editor

Last week’s Republican National Convention violated the Hatch Act of 1939 several times. The federal employees involved in the naturalization ceremony for five new American citizens that was featured during the convention violated the Hatch Act. For nearly 80 years, the Hatch Act has forbidden government civil service employees from participating in political activity in their official capacity. The use of White House staff to prepare the rose garden for Melania Trump’s keynote address during the convention violated the Hatch Act. White House staff are federal employees and are therefore not permitted to participate in partisan political activities on the job. The president is exempt from the Hatch Act but his staff are not. Finally, Mike Pompeo’s address to the convention violated the Hatch Act because federal employees were used to facilitate Pompeo’s address and because he made the speech in his official capacity as secretary of state. 

Chief of Staff Mark Meadows dismissed concerns about these violations, saying “Nobody outside of the Beltway really cares.” I am outside of the Beltway and I care and I am not alone in wishing that the Trump Administration would follow the law designed to minimize corruption and cronyism within the U.S. Civil Service. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) recommended in 2019 that White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway be fired for repeatedly violating the Hatch Act. This report followed the March 2018 OSC finding that Conway was a “repeat offender” for disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while in her official capacity during televised interviews and on social media. President Trump refused to remove her, contending that the Hatch Act unconstitutionally deprived Conway of her free speech rights. This novel interpretation did not stop the OSC in 2019 from imposing a $1,000 fine and firing Zsa Zsa Depaolo, a former U.S. immigration judge who violated the Hatch Act from the bench. She had promoted then-Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s plan for immigration reform during a deportation hearing over which DePaolo presided in March 2016. Free speech rights apparently override enforcement of the Hatch Act only if the “free speech” supports Trump Administration policies.

William McCarthy