Ethics Complaint Filed Against Psaki for Allegedly Violating Hatch Act

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Posted: Oct 15, 2021 5:45 PM
Ethics Complaint Filed Against Psaki for Allegedly Violating Hatch Act

Source: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

A government watchdog group filed an ethics complaint against White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki Friday over her endorsement of Terry McAuliffe for Virginia governor during a press briefing, which the group alleges is a violation of the Hatch Act.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel, requesting that an investigation be launched to determine if Psaki violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal government employees from participating in political campaign activities in their official capacity. The president and vice president are exempt from this rule.

The complaint points to Psaki's comments during Thursday's press briefing, when she told a reporter that "we’re going to do everything we can to help former Governor McAuliffe, and we believe in the agenda he’s representing."

"The last administration systematically co-opted the government for the president’s reelection," CREW President Noah Bookbinder said in a statement. "While this conduct does not come close to rising to the level of the outrageous offenses of the Trump administration, that does not mean we should be casual about compliance with an important ethics law. The Biden administration should not follow the Trump administration down that path."

During the last administration, CREW filed complaints against former Press Secretaries Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kayleigh McEnany, former Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley, former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and other Trump staffers for violating the law. 

McEnany slammed the media Thursday for failing to call out Psaki's violation of the Hatch Act. 

"Why does the media not hold [Psaki] accountable for potential Hatch Act violations? She has twice advocated for political candidates from the podium. There is no problem in engaging in First Amendment political activity, but it must be done separate and apart from the podium, She said in a tweet.

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But later, during a Friday appearance on CNN, Psaki told host Jake Tapper that she believes her remarks would not have warranted an ethics violation if she had avoided saying "we" when referring to support for McAuliffe.

Psaki's Thursday comments were not the first instance in which she appeared to violate the Hatch Act.

In September, the press secretary said that "hopefully" President Joe Biden campaigning for California Gov. Gavin Newsom ahead of the state's recall election "will be helpful to the efforts of the governor."

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