A former government ethics chief has filed a formal complaint against White House counselor Kellyanne Conway for her comments against Alabama Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones on Fox News.
Walter Shaub, who resigned as director of the Office of Government Ethics earlier this year, claims that Conway violated rules known as the Hatch Act, which bar federal employees advocating from political candidates during official duties, when she discussed Jones’ candidacy and what it would mean for President Donald Trump’s agenda.
“I have filed a complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which investigates Hatch Act violations,” Shaub tweeted Wednesday.
I have filed a complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which investigates Hatch Act violations. https://t.co/Mrm8al9nZz
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) November 22, 2017
Conway joined “Fox & Friends” Monday apparently from outside the White House, where she was asked about the state of tax reform process working through the House and Senate, and how partisanship is getting in the way. ”
“Doug Jones in Alabama, folks, don’t be fooled,” Conway said. “He will be a vote against tax cuts. He is weak on crime, weak on borders. He is strong on raising your taxes. He is terrible for property owners.”
Judge Roy Moore, Republican candidate for the Alabama seat, has faced allegations of inappropriate relationships with teenage women when he was in his 30s in the 1970s, including two allegations of sexual assault of girls under the age of 16.
When pressed by host Brian Kilmeade whether she was saying Alabama should “vote Roy Moore,” Conway declined to give a clear endorsement.
“I’m telling you we want the votes in the Senate to get this tax bill through,” Conway said.
The Hatch Act “prohibits federal employees from using their official authority or influence to affect the outcome of an election.”
“This is a clear violation” of the Hatch Act, Shaub later tweeted, comparing Conway’s statements to former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro.
I found the video. She’s standing In front of the White House. It seems pretty clear she was appearing in her official capacity when she advocated against a candidate. This is at least as clear a violation of 5 U.S.C. § 7323(a)(1) as OSC identified with regard to Castro. pic.twitter.com/EwTwPriaVX
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) November 21, 2017
The Office of Special Counsel found that Castro violated the Hatch Act when he voiced support for former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016.
The White House denied that Conway in any way endorsed Moore or spoke in an attempt to influence the outcome of the election. “Ms. Conway did not advocate for or against the election of a candidate, and specifically declined to encourage Alabamans to vote a certain way,” Raj Shaj, principal deputy White House press secretary, said in a statement. “She was speaking about issues and her support for the President’s agenda. This election is for the people of Alabama to decide.”
One of Trump’s officials has already been hit with a Hatch violation. The OSC determined that Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley transgressed when she retweeted Trump’s tweet of support of Ralph Northam, then-candidate for South Carolina congressional seat, from a Twitter account which identified her as a U.S. official.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with comment from the White House.
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