White House chief of staff violates the Hatch Act

White House chief of staff  Ron Klain seems to have gotten himself in a bit of trouble recently. 

According to a letter from the Office of Special Counsel obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, Klain violated the Hatch Act, which bars government employees from taking part in political campaign activities. 

The violation in question doesn’t look all that blatant or overt, but the rules are the rules, after all. Or at least they used to be. These days it seems as if the seriousness of anyone’s “guilt” or the consequences they might potentially face depend largely on whether they are a member of a favored political group or party. 

If that’s the case, Klain likely has very little to worry about. 

From the Washington Free Beacon:

White House chief of staff and serial Twitter user Ron Klain violated the Hatch Act, a federal law that forbids government employees from engaging in campaign-related activity, according to an Office of Special Counsel letter obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The violation occurred earlier this year when Klain retweeted the left-wing political action committee Strike PAC on May 22, the Office of Special Counsel said in its letter to the America First Legal. The tweet thanked President Joe Biden for delivering infant formula to the United States amid a national shortage, and linked to the commitee’s online store.

Such conduct is illegal. The Hatch Act forbids federal “employees from, among other things, using their official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election and knowingly soliciting, accepting, or receiving political contributions from any person.”

So the violation in question involves Klain’s Twitter account, as with most things in the news these days. But the item in question wasn’t even a tweet the Klain posted himself. It was a retweet of someone else from a PAC. Since it did involve the promotion of a political campaign or candidate, it technically was a violation of the Hatch Act as the Office of Special Counsel claims.

But what, if anything, is going to happen as a result? If history offers us any information on that subject, not much is likely to happen. Under the provisions of the law in question, anyone found guilty of violating the Hatch Act can be removed from federal service, take a reduction in grade, be debarred from federal service for up to 5 years, be suspended, or receive a letter of reprimand.

But the OSC doesn’t have any means to enforce that law when it comes to the President’s staff. You may recall that the OSC accused Kellyanne Conway of multiple violations of the Hatch Act when she was serving as a counselor to Donald Trump. They recommended that she be removed from federal service immediately. Donald Trump simply rejected the assertion, calling it politically motivated. For her part, Conway went on another television show and said she didn’t care, adding “let me know when the jail sentence starts.”

So it’s almost a certainty that nothing will be happening to Ron Klain unless Joe Biden makes the decision to do it. And if we’re being honest, Ron Klain is very likely running the country for the most part right now, so it might actually be Ron Klain who would have to remove Ron Klain from his position. Does that sound very likely to you?

The Hatch Act simply doesn’t get taken very seriously these days and that’s probably not going to change any time soon. Also, the provisions are vague enough that you can argue for or against it under most circumstances. One could plausibly say that the President’s Press Secretary is violating the Hatch Act every time she holds a presser and parrots the administration’s talking points in an effort to boost their chances in the next election. But Karine Jean-Pierre won’t be losing her job any time soon either.

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