Illinois Republican Rep. Joe Walsh told The Daily Caller he thinks President Barack Obama shouldn’t treat Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius any differently than any other Hatch Act violator — and that the president should terminate Sebelius’ employment immediately.
“As the president who said he had ‘put in place the toughest ethics laws and toughest transparency rules of any administration in history,’ I would expect nothing less than for the president to quickly dismiss Ms. Sebelius,” Walsh told TheDC. “Her actions were not just a violation of the Hatch Act — they were a violation of the people’s trust who believe that their tax payer dollars are not being spent to help promote party politics.”
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) said Wednesday that Sebelius violated the law when she publicly endorsed Obama’s re-election and North Carolina Lieutenant Gov. Walter Dalton’s gubernatorial primary in a multi-way race during a taxpayer-funded public event on Feb. 25, 2012. The standard penalty for violating the Hatch Act is termination. But, the White House has suggested that Obama will offer Sebelius special treatment and let her keep her job.
According to OSC, any “employee who violates the Hatch Act shall be removed from their position, and funds appropriated for the position from which removed thereafter may not be used to pay the employee or individual.”
Federal government employees who are not politically appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate may have their punishment lessened from termination “if the Merit Systems Protection Board finds by unanimous vote that the violation does not warrant removal, a penalty of not less than a 30-day suspension without pay shall be imposed by direction of the board.”
But, according to government watchdog group Cause of Action executive director Dan Epstein, since Sebelius is a Senate-confirmed presidential appointee, she isn’t entitled to such a review.
“Thus the point is that by close of business on Sept. 12, 2012, the president has been informed of a Hatch Act violation and yet has decided not to fire Sebelius,” Epstein said. “The president has therefore decided to overlook the improper political activities of his appointees when in their official capacities. He has effectively said it is okay to politicize the executive branch.”
Kansas Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp — who fought with Sebelius for years during their time together in state government — told TheDC that he thinks Sebelius not being held accountable thus far sends a frightening message to government workers.
“This is exactly why they did the Hatch Act — so you wouldn’t have unions running the government and secretaries weren’t forcing politics on employees,” Huelskamp said in a phone interview. “Here you have the most pro-union administration allowing someone to do exactly that. For an administration that claims to be pro-workers — and that’s why the Hatch Act was written, to be protect workers. But hey, what do you expect? This is not surprising. They finally let themselves get caught doing it.”
“I mean, clearly the unions have made it their life’s work to re-elect this president,” Huelskamp added. “It sends a very chilling message: If you’re a federal worker, you’re now also an employee of the campaign, perhaps, rather than just an employee of the federal government.”
Huelskamp also said he thinks it’s a shame that Obama puts up with behavior like this from his cabinet secretaries.
“People are always concerned about this with the president — when does the campaign begin and the official stuff end?” Huelskamp said. “But, when you have a secretary, she knows what the line is: She’s well-versed and well-trained in all of this, and she should pay a very severe price. I think it’s an embarrassment to the administration. But hey, so is [Attorney General] Eric Holder. The thing about President Obama is he has really held onto people who have really been a political albatross for him. It’s just unprecedented.”
It appears Sebelius’ illegal Dalton primary endorsement sparked the OSC investigation, as that was reported first in the Charlotte Observer two days after the North Carolina event. It was later discovered that Sebelius also endorsed Obama at the event.
“Does the Obama administration have a favorite in the N.C. Democratic primary for governor?” asked the Charlotte Observer’s Tim Funk of Sebelius’ endorsement of Dalton in a Feb. 27, 2012, article.
In a follow-up article shortly after, Sebelius’ team walked back her endorsement of Dalton — and told Funk that Sebelius’ political comments came outside her prepared remarks. A senior Democratic Party official blamed the whole controversy — which has now blown up into Sebelius having broken a law — on Dalton.
According to Funk, a high-ranking Washington-based Democratic Party official accused Dalton of “misleading Sebelius during a backstage meeting by presenting himself as the only Democratic candidate in the race.”
“It was a bush-league move,” said the party official, according to Funk. “It was a clear lie of omission … and it left a bad taste in the mouth of party leaders in Washington.”