Politics

Chaffetz, Cummings Eye Presidential Election Hatch Act Violations

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House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform leaders want to make sure federal officials aren’t using tax dollars illegally to fund their political travel during an election year.

Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz and Ranking Minority Member Elijah Cummings wrote to 18 department secretaries and administrators demanding documents describing how they police campaign-related travel to avoid federal Hatch Act violations.

The Hatch Act bars executive branch employees from using federal tax dollars to fund partisan political activity. It also prohibits federal employees from speaking in their official capacities for or against partisan candidates for elective office.

“The president recently made his first campaign appearance at an event in North Carolina, and as the election approaches, it is likely that he and other senior administration officials will participate in campaign events across the country,” Chaffetz and Cummings wrote.

Some officials’ trip schedules mix political events, like fundraisers, with official business, “further complicating” the tax-funded political activity issue, the letter explains.

“The costs associated with the political components of a senior official’s mixed trip may not be paid using funds from the United States Treasury, so it is necessary to carefully track the official’s time to determine what portion of the travel costs must be reimbursed,” they wrote.

The letter comes on the heels of the Office of Special Counsel chastising Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro for violating the Hatch Act by supporting Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and criticizing Republican nominee Donald Trump in an April interview. (RELATED: Tom Perez Accused Of Okaying Whistleblower Retaliations)

Chaffetz and Cummings requested:

  • A description of how the agency guarantees compliance with Hatch Act restrictions on political travel
  • The agency’s formula for dividing costs when a trip includes political events and official business
  • A list of political events presidential appointees traveled to in 2016
  • A list of political events presidential appointees plan to travel to in 2016, along with any official business included on those trips

Department heads have until Aug. 4 to respond.

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