Did WH "political landscape" briefings of agency officials violate the Hatch Act?

There’s already a thread on this story, but it’s mainly about whether Rove is impeachable. I want to focus on whether it violates the Hatch Act, or any other law, and, if so, what are the legal implications/consequences.

And, more broadly, apart from the Hatch Act, and as a matter of public policy, should this sort of thing be tolerated or not? Is it simply coordination for advancement of the Administration’s policy goals, as the WH claims, or is it partisan politicization of the civil service?

Related story: Similar briefings were given to diplomats and Peace Corps staffers.

Relevant article.

The Hatch Act (5 USC § 7321 et seq) provides an exemption for senior, policy-making officials. It also permits most federal employees to enagage in activities like campaigning for or against referendum questions, constitutional amendments, municipal ordinances and for or against candidates in partisan elections.

As with any “is it illegal?” question, the burden is on the person claiming an activity is illegal to identify what specific conduct violates what specific statute.

So … you tell me.

Did I take that position? I am putting the question out there for discussion. (Beyond what Wiki sez, I don’t really know a lot about the Hatch Act, not even whether it provides for criminal penalties for violation.)

And reread the OP – I am also putting out for discussion whether this should be tolerated, as a matter of public policy, apart from the Hatch Act.


I am also taking no position on the Hatch Act issue – it seems be somewhat complex.

As a matter of public policy, I am not hearing anything just yet that would cause me to say that anything was done that should be prohibited.

Don’t you think the GSA Administrator telling her subordinates about all the chances they have to help “our candidates” undermines the political independence of the professional civil service?

What legitimate policy goal do briefings on particular candidates serve?

More about that there professional civil service, and its experiences under the Bush Admin.

And the parallels to the Nixon administration just keep on coming. From Watergate: The Full Inside Story (a book by a team from the London Sunday Times, and IMHO the best of the analyses):

I don’t agree that the “professional civil service” at that level has ever had political independence, and I think seeking same is an unrealistic goal.

Um, what do you think a professional civil service is?

At what level, Bricker? Political appointees or high-rankiing career government employees? Was a political presentation made by the former to the latter? 'Cause frankly, I have a problem with that, and I’d like to know if the Hatch Act also has a problem with it.

I’ll add that while certainly a professional civil service is controlled and swayed by their political masters, they should have no interest or partisan feelings as to who those masters are. They should serve Republicans as evenly, fairly, and competently as they do Democrats and vice versa.

This is intended as an addendum to my above post directed to Bricker.

I mean Schedule C individuals, or those appointed by the President to a civilian position in the Executive branch at a salary that is at least that of Executive Level V.

I don’t mean GS-15’s.

The officials you are talking about, are they the kind who typically stay on from one administration to the next?

Are you talking, perhaps, about the Senior Executive Service? (See here.)