Battening down the Hatches

      No Comments on Battening down the Hatches

Unpopular and probably incorrect opinion: the Office of Special Counsel’s Hatch Act report is pretty much a nothingburger and people should pretty much ignore it.

Now, it’s quite clear that the President of the United States encouraged federal employees to ignore the law, and that’s a Bad Thing. I would absolutely agree with that. But the actual violations described in the report are almost entirely a matter of public officials speaking in public, promoting the President they serve under. And there’s not really that much difference between arranging a promotional photo-op or talking about the accomplishments of the administration perfectly legally, and doing so illegally in the context of the election.

What the Hatch Act is supposed to prevent, and largely does prevent, is a President (or other federal official) basically doing campaign payroll from the federal budget. It prevents the President from taking five hundred EPA civil servants off of environment and having them go to Wisconsin and do Get out the Vote. It prevents incumbents from using the White House administrative budget to hire people to make campaign calls from the White House number. It doesn’t prevent incumbents from hiring the same people with campaign money to make those calls from the campaign office. It prevents incumbents from raiding the treasury to pay for campaign trips; it doesn’t prevent incumbents from scheduling official events where they think they would be politically helpful.

And there’s nothing in the report about the President using federal money to run his campaign, or using the force of the government to compel people to work on the campaign. It’s about people not respecting a highly artificial line between working for the President they support and supporting the President they work for. Again: that artificial line is the law, and it should indeed be respected! It’s bad that they didn’t do that! But it’s also not like they knocked over a liquor store—especially given how much, and how much more egregious lawmaking was going on in that White House.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.