Despite finding Federal Communications Commission (FCC) representatives’ attendance at a conservative conference innocent of breaking ethics regulations, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced on Wednesday it will be conducting ethics training for the agency.
Democrats were outraged to see FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on the stage of the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the largest annual gathering of conservative activists in the country, on Feb. 23. They sent a letter to the OSC’s Special Counsel Henry Kerner to request the chairman be investigated for violating the Hatch Act.
The Hatch Act prevents most executive branch employees, with the exception of the president, vice-president and certain designated high-level officials, of the federal government from engaging in partisan activities.
“In addition to your finding last week that Commissioner Michael O’Rielly did in fact violate the Hatch Act during his appearance at CPAC, the three Republican FCC Commissioners have also refused to cooperate with Congressional oversight into their promotion of and participation in CPAC,” Democratic Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. from New Jersey and Mike Doyle from Pennsylvania wrote on May 7.
“These actions raise serious concerns about whether the Chairman and Commissioners may have knowingly violated ethical restrictions,” they added. “We hope you will assist us in this investigation.”
The OSC did not label CPAC a strictly partisan event, despite it being a mostly conservative event. (RELATED: FCC Issues $120M Fine To The Man Behind Some Of Those Annoying Robocalls)
Ajit Pai refused a “courage” award from the National Rifle Association at CPAC for repealing the Obama-era net neutrality regulations; some experts speculate it would have been a violation of the Hatch Act if he accepted it.
O’Rielly was found to have broken the Hatch Act not for going to CPAC, but for telling the audience there to re-elect President Donald Trump in 2020.
“After considering all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the event, OSC has concluded that you did not violate the Hatch Act by merely participating in the panel discussion in an official capacity,” wrote OSC official Ana Galindo-Marrone to Pai on Wednesday, The Hill reported.
The OSC announced in its letter that it “is working with the FCC to schedule comprehensive Hatch Act training for FCC employees” this summer.
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