Obama refuses to punish Julian Castro for violating the Hatch Act
The White House announced that the president will not discipline HUD Secretary Julián Castro for violating the Hatch Act, which prevents government employees from engaging in partisan political activity on government property.
In an interview at his HUD office, Castro praised Hillary Clinton, saying "she has a positive vision for the country that includes opportunity for everybody, and she can actually get it done."
The Washington Times quotes press secretary Josh Earnest claiming that Castro is sorry and it will never happen again:
To his credit, Secretary Castro acknowledged the mistake that he made,” Mr. Earnest said. “He owned up to it, and he’s taken the necessary steps to prevent it from happening again. That’s the expectation that people have when you make a mistake, particularly in a situation like this.
I always thought the "expectation" in situations like this is that the law would be enforced. Silly me.
The 41-year-old Cabinet secretary, a Texan and Hispanic who is considered a rising star in the Democratic Party, is said to be under consideration by Mrs. Clinton as her running mate for vice president.
She’s expected to make her announcement within days, ahead of the start of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Monday. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is also among the contenders.
OSC investigators found that the format for the interview left the impression that Mr. Castro was speaking on behalf of his government agency, and not as a private citizen, when he touted Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy. They said he “impermissibly mixed his personal political views with official government agency business.”
Violations of the Hatch Act carry a fine of up to $1,000; offenders sometimes receive a reprimand instead.
Mr. Castro acknowledged that he’d violated the act in his response to the OSC.
“In responding to a journalist’s question about the 2016 election, I offered my opinion to the interviewer after making it clear that I was articulating my personal view and not an official position,” Mr. Castro wrote. “At the time, I believed that this disclaimer was what was required by the Hatch Act. However, your analysis provides that it was not sufficient.”
He said “when an error is made — even an inadvertent one — the error should be acknowledged. Although it was not my intent, I made one here.”
No punishment is forthcoming from the president.
No, it's not felony murder. But the purpose of the Hatch Act is sound. Using the power of one's position in government for partisan political purposes appears to put a thumb on the scale when making decisions affecting businesses and individuals that interact with HUD.
But in the Obama administration, we are already assuming that a thumb is on the scale – as well as a foot and a 500-lb weight. There is nothing but partisanship coming from the FEC, the IRS, the EPA, and half a dozen other federal agencies and departments who are in business to punish their enemies and harass their opponents.
Does this affect Castro's chances at the veep slot? Probably not. Given Hillary Clinton's own lawbreaking, she probably sees Castro as a kindred spirit.