The White House is facing scrutiny for potential violations of the Hatch Act, a federal law aimed at preventing federal employees from using their official positions to influence elections.
A letter shared by NBC News revealed that White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates were found to have acted “contrary” to Hatch Act guidelines. This follows a warning to Jean-Pierre for using the term “MAGA” negatively to describe certain Republicans, a violation of the 1939 statute.
The Hatch Act, officially titled “An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities,” enacted in 1939, aims to maintain the integrity of the federal workforce by ensuring nonpartisan conduct. It separates federal employees’ professional responsibilities from personal political engagements, preventing political influence on federal service.
The Office of Special Counsel (OSC), an independent government watchdog, highlighted that despite warnings, Jean-Pierre and Bates continued using “MAGA” in official communications, a term associated with former President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan. The OSC had previously deemed the use of “MAGA” and similar terms off-limits due to their campaign-related nature.
Hatch Act Unit Chief Ana Galindo‐Marrone stated in an October letter that since June incidents, Jean-Pierre and Bates seemed not to have employed “MAGA” in their official roles. However, the OSC would monitor for future breaches.
Galindo‐Marrone assured, “Please rest assured that we will continue to monitor the situation and reserve the right to reopen these cases.” Regarding whether Jean-Pierre and Bates violated the Hatch Act, OSC Communications Director Zachary Kurz chose not to respond.
A White House representative told NBC News on Thursday, “We take the law seriously and uphold the Hatch Act.” Despite this, the OSC opted against disciplinary action.
The lack of significant repercussions raises concerns about the Act’s enforcement, especially compared to lower-level public servants facing serious consequences for similar violations, including the use of campaign slogans in official communications. The advisory opinion noted limitations on phrases like “Build Back Better” and “MAGA” in official statements.