Sebelius violated Hatch Act, says special counsel
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius violated the law that prevents federal officials from political advocacy on the taxpayer's dime.
Sebelius attended a political rally in North Carolina last February where she urged the re-election of President Obama and the election of local Democrats.
Since her appearance at the rally was considered part of her official duties, the Office of Special Counsel determined she violated the law.
The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) said Sebelius broke federal law by saying in a February speech that it is "imperative" to reelect President Obama. She also used the speech, delivered at a Human Rights Campaign event in Charlotte, N.C., to plug local Democrats.
Republicans criticized Sebelius in the wake of the OSC report, but stopped short of calling on her to step down.
"That the secretary violated federal law in this manner is disturbing, but hardly a surprise," a spokeswoman for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said. "Since almost day one, this administration has had a singular focus on politicking - not governing - that's borne out by the secretary ignoring a strict prohibition on electioneering while working for federal taxpayers."
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who asked the OSC to investigate Sebelius's comments at the rally, said he would wait to see how Obama handles the issue.
The White House defended the secretary, noting that she admitted her comments were "a mistake."
Sebelius did concede that she made a mistake, but also said the OSC should not have found her in violation of the Hatch Act.
The OSC was investigating comments Sebelius made in February, when she strayed from her prepared remarks to praise Obama and other Democrats.
"One of the imperatives is to make sure that we not only come together here in Charlotte to present the nomination to the president, but we make sure that in November, he continues to be president for another four years," she said, according to the OSC report.
She also ventured into state politics, urging the defeat of an anti-gay-marriage ballot proposal and saying it's "hugely important to make sure that we reelect the president and elect a Democratic governor here in North Carolina," the OSC report says.
Typical craveness from Sebelius in her explanation, noting that the DNC had reimbursed taxpayers for the trip:
That should have been enough to avoid a Hatch Act violation, Sebelius said in her response to the investigation. Sebelius said "it seems somewhat unfair" to conclude that she was using her official title for political purposes, and noted that she voluntarily sought to reimburse the federal government for the trip after going "off script."
"If there was a violation of the Hatch Act based on the use of my title, I believe the violation was technical and minor," Sebelius told the OSC. "These are not the types of violations that the Hatch Act is intended to address."
She noted that the OSC did not recommend that Obama take any specific action to punish her, and said, "I don't believe that any action would be appropriate."
It's "unfair" that she violated the law? And these are exactly "the type of violations the Hatch Act was intended to address." How much clearer can the law be?
Also typically, the Obama administration dismissed the report, bragging about how ethical they are. Given the tomfoolery that goes on with meeting lobbyists outside the White House -- a clear breach of Obama's promises -- and other questionable ethical matters such as Fast and Furious, bragging about how clean you are rings a little hollow.
Hat Tip: Ed Lasky