Kellyanne Conway is an official counselor to the president, and thus, an employee of the federal government. The Hatch Act forbids federal employees (who aren’t the president or vice-president) from engaging in partisan political advocacy while acting in their capacity as public servants.
Conway thinks this is a law that was made to be broken. Over and over again, Conway has disparaged Democratic politicians and candidates, while answering questions in her official role as a White House adviser. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), an independent government agency tasked with enforcing the Hatch Act (and which has no relationship with Robert Mueller’s investigation), has repeatedly informed Conway that such actions contravene federal law, and implored her to desist from them. Nevertheless, Conway persisted. Last month, she excoriated Joe Biden for abetting mass incarceration and mistreating Anita Hill, while taking questions from reporters. The assembled journalists noted that she appeared to be violating the Hatch Act again.
“Blah, blah, blah. If you’re trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it’s not going to work,” Conway reportedly replied. “Let me know when the jail sentence starts.”
On Thursday, the OSC decided that enough was enough. In a report to the Trump administration, the office called for Conway’s removal from office. “Ms. Conway’s violations, if left unpunished, would send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions,” the report reads. “Her actions thus erode the principal foundation of our democratic system — the rule of law.”
The Trump administration begged to differ.
“Others, of all political views, have objected to the OSC’s unclear and unevenly applied rules which have a chilling effect on free speech for all federal employees,” deputy White House press secretary Steven Groves said Thursday. “Its decisions seem to be influenced by media pressure and liberal organizations, and perhaps OSC should be mindful of its own mandate to act in a fair, impartial, nonpolitical manner, and not misinterpret or weaponize the Hatch Act.”