When Kellyanne Conway weighed in on the Alabama Senate race while defending Roy Moore, she might have broken the law. That’s per former ethics chief Walter Schaub, who went so far as to file an official complaint against Conway for violating the Hatch Act. The Hatch Act, which has been in place since the 1930s, is designed to prevent political coercion and forbids certain members of government — including most federal employees in the executive branch — from participating in political campaigns while they are on the clock. Conway may have run afoul of that protocol when she criticized Roy Moore’s opponent, Doug Jones, while appearing as an official White House representative on Fox News.
Schaub tweeted on Tuesday that he believes Conway’s commentary on Fox, delivered from the White House grounds, was “at least as clear a violation of 5 U.S.C. § 7323(a)(1) as OSC identified with regard to Castro.” That refers to a U.S. code that prohibits a federal employee from using “official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election” The bit about Castro references Julian Castro, the former Housing and Urban Development Secretary who in 2016 was found in violation of the Hatch Act because he advocated for then-candidate Hillary Clinton.
Other former ethics chiefs agreed. Obama’s ethics czar, Norm Eisen, called on the Office of Special Counsel to sanction Conway. Former White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter also found Conway’s conduct concerning. He weighed in Tuesday, pointing out that Conway isn’t ignorant of the Hatch Act because she’s violated it before by promoting Ivanka Trump’s shoe line. “For her this is strike two,” he wrote, noting that this is a severe enough offense that she should be hit with President Trump’s signature catch phrase from his reality TV days. Painter tweeted, “presumptive penalty for violation: ‘you’re fired.'”
The Campaign Legal Center are the lawyers Shaub engaged to file the complaint against Conway. It will be the second time Conway has been investigated by the OSC, and the third time the oversight office will have to look into a member of the Trump administration. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley got in hot Hatch-related water when she retweeted one of President Trump’s political endorsements in June.