Biden chief of staff Ron Klain violates Hatch Act
White House chief of staff Ron Klain violated the Hatch Act with his Twitter usage, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel found.
The top aide to President Joe Biden, who is well known for his prolific Twitter usage, ran afoul of the federal law that prohibits employees of the executive branch from participating in political activity of any kind in their official capacity when he retweeted a post from the Democratic Strike PAC in May advertising their merchandise, according to a letter sent to America First Legal and obtained by the Washington Examiner.
The watchdog issued a reprimand for the violation, warning him not to do it again, and did not take any further action.
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“Operation Fly Formula delivers 70,000 pounds of infant formula for American mothers and their infants. Thank you @POTUS,” the tweet read, adding, “Get your Democrats Deliver merch today!” It came with a link to merchandise sporting the “Democrats Deliver” slogan.
The letter notes it does not take much for an executive branch employee to violate the Hatch Act prohibitions while using social media. Barred political activity on an official account includes “liking, sharing, or retweeting a post that solicits political contributions.” The specific tweet qualifies as a solicitation for political contributions due to its encouragement of buying the group’s merchandise.
“Strike PAC is a partisan political group, and according to its website, it ‘supports campaign finance reform and will help elect Democrats who support these vital policies.’ It also has a ‘nationalized strategy’ aimed at promoting the Democratic Party by ‘tell[ing] stories of how Democrats deliver on their promises to improve the lives of voters,'” the letter notes. “In this vein, Strike PAC’s message thanking President Biden served to further the group’s nationalized strategy of promoting Democrats as the party that delivers on its promises to voters. By retweeting this message, Mr. Klain used his official Twitter account to promote a partisan political group’s interests and, therefore, OSC has concluded that he violated the Hatch Act’s use of official authority prohibition.”
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The letter concludes by noting that Klain promptly deleted the retweet upon learning it constituted a violation, leading to the decision not to pursue disciplinary action.
Klain is not the first high-profile member of the Biden administration found to have violated the Hatch Act. White House press secretary Jen Psaki received a reprimand for violating the act while speaking in October of last year. Only the president and vice president are exempt from the Hatch Act.