Government Ethics Conference: It’s okay for federal employees to wear anti-tea party T-shirts

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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Materials distributed at the 18th National Government Ethics Conference informed U.S. government employees that they could wear T-shirts during the 2012 election encouraging people to vote in order to “get stubborn Tea Stains out.”

The lavish Ethics Conference was hosted by the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) at the Orlando World Center Marriott from September 13 through September 15, 2011, during the period in which the IRS was improperly targeting conservative groups. The conference featured presentations on various ethical issues from representatives from all kinds of government agencies, from the Department of Justice to the Department of Defense to NASA and the Department of Agriculture.

An “Ethics Education Lab #4” presenter came from the Department of Health and Human Services, which was later disgraced for its unethical behavior while building the Obamacare website. Then-White House associate counsel Heather Gottry even presented a session called “Ethics at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.”

Within this three-day ethical wonderland, some brave souls tried to help government employees avoid partisan political activity and associated Hatch Act violations by disseminating an informational packet entitled “Gearing Up for the 2012 Election Season: What Every Federal Employee Needs to Know,” prepared by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.

A section headlined “Not Prohibited Political Activity (Examples):” featured three images on page 22 of items that could pass for acceptable, non-prohibited political activity during the upcoming election year.

Though the page featured an “OMG (Obama Must Go)” sticker, the other two images were Democrat-friendly and much more specific. One graphic featured an image of President Obama in sunglasses smiling and pointing with the text “Sorry it took so long to get you a copy of my birth certificate I was too busy killing Osama bin Laden.”

The other image on the page identified the tea party specifically, featuring a T-shirt with the slogan “Vote: Get Stubborn Tea Stains Out.”

While the Obama administration was harassing and auditing tea party groups, administration employees were being told that they could walk around in shirts identifying the tea party as “tea stains.”

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Patrick Howley