Federal employees, like all Americans, are entitled to hold passionate political beliefs. Most executive branch federal employees, however, may not engage in certain political activities, thanks to an anti-conflict of interest principle enshrined in a federal law called the Hatch Act. To wit, President Bush requested the resignation of his GSA administrator in 2008 after the US Office of Special Counsel determined she had violated federal law by participating in a video conference with Karl Rove and sending out partisan letters. (The New York Times was scandalized at the time, though I strangely can't find their editorial calling for Kathleen Sebelius' head when OSC flagged her for a Hatch Act violation. Then again, the Times' alleged principles seem to depend entirely on which party is in power). Which brings us to the case of April Sands, an employee at the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), who struck a deal with the agency's Inspector General to avoid criminal charges related to running afoul of the Hatch Act on numerous occasions. She has openly confessed to breaching federal law as part of her effective plea bargain, but investigators were unable to probe a potential goldmine of incriminating activity: Her email. Why? You guessed it; her hard drive crashed, supposedly wiping out her email records, and resulting in the FEC recycling (i.e., destroying) the hard drive. Sounds familiar. Did I mention that Ms. Sands worked under Lois Lerner when Lerner served as the agency's Associate General Counsel for Enforcement? Lots of coincidences and similarities, no? Here's the House Oversight Committee's summary of a letter Issa and company fired off to the FEC:
“As a part of a settlement agreement with the [Office of Special Counsel], Ms. [April] Sands admitted to violating the Hatch Act by soliciting political contributions via Twitter, conducting political activity through her Twitter account, and participating in a political discussion ‘via webcam from an FEC conference room . . . while on duty,’” Issa and Jordan write in their letter. “The FEC [Office of Inspector General] sought to pursue criminal charges stemming from Ms. Sands’s solicitation of political contributions while on duty inside the FEC building. However, the FEC recycled Ms. Sands’s hard drive before the OIG was able to seize it, and therefore the OIG was unable to show that Ms. Sands’s solicitations and political activity were done from an FEC computer. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia thereafter declined criminal prosecution.” According to news reports, Ms. Sands worked for former IRS official Lois Lerner when Ms. Lerner served as the FEC’s Associate General Counsel for Enforcement. It is unclear whether Ms. Sands ever communicated with Ms. Lerner after Ms. Lerner moved to the IRS; however, the Committee is aware that Ms. Lerner maintained communication with some former FEC colleagues. Ms. Lerner even apparently shared information protected by section 6103 of the tax code with the FEC.
This woman's job was helping to enforce election laws. Here's a sense of how this "public servant" passed her time at the office, doing a job whose salary was funded by taxpayers:
She lumps in anyone who supports the Republican platform with the birthers, then declares the whole lot her "enemy." She's also so incurious and close-minded that she can't possibly fathom how anyone who doesn't look like Rush Limbaugh could possibly hold conservative values; women, minorities and gays are to stay on the intellectual plantation, where they belong. Again, this is a woman who was paid by taxpayers to enforce election laws equitably. One wonders: Did Sands and Lerner engage in any joint activity during the targeting regime -- lambasting conservatives or conspiring to use their power to fight "enemies" on the Right? We may never know. Substantial portions of their email records have been conveniently and irretrievably lost. You may recall that Lerner was an officious, pro-government activist during her time at the FEC, and gave a presentation at Duke University in 2010 -- during which she expressed dismay over the Supreme Court's Citizens United political speech decision, and bemoaned the fact that the FEC couldn't "fix" the problem. Last week, one of her non-lost emails revealed that Lerner wanted to know if the IRS' internal instant messaging system was subject to archiving. She asked those questions in the context of telling her staff to "be cautious about what we say in emails." That missive was sent days after the Inspector General uncovered the agency's abusive targeting practices, and before the scandal went public. The Justice Department's investigation into the matter is being spearheaded by an Obama donor. I'll leave you with this clue as to how thorough it's been thus far:
No one from True The Vote, the highest profile organization targeted by the IRS in the scandal involving improper scrutiny of conservative-leaning non-profits, has been interviewed by the FBI or investigators from the Department of Justice, according to the group’s President, Catherine Engelbrecht. This stunning revelation comes just days after Attorney General Eric Holder rebuffed the suggestion that an independent investigation is needed into the growing scandal. Holder told ABC News this weekend that a special investigation was unnecessary because “career people” and FBI agents “doing a good, professional job” investigating the matter.
WMAL's interview with Mrs. Engelbrecht is here:
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography