A government watchdog has concluded that White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre violated the Hatch Act – a federal law that restricts federal employees from certain political activities that may influence elections – in the run-up to the 2022 midterm elections.
The Office of Special Counsel made the determination this month that Jean-Pierre’s repeated use of the words “mega MAGA Republicans” when referring to Republican candidates violated the Hatch Act, according to an NBC News report on Monday.
“Because Ms. Jean‐Pierre made the statements while acting in her official capacity, she violated the Hatch Act prohibition against using her official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election,” Ana Galindo‐Marrone, the chief of OSC’s Hatch Act Unit, wrote in a letter dated June 7, according to the news outlet.
The group added that Jean-Pierre’s remarks were “an inappropriate attempt to influence the vote.”
Despite the violation, the agency wrote that it has “decided to close this matter without further action,” noting that White House lawyers “did not at the time believe that Ms. Jean‐Pierre’s remarks were prohibited.”
The Hatch Act, enacted in 1939, prohibits executive branch employees from using “official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.”
Conservative watchdog group Protect the Public’s Trust filed the Hatch Act complaint against Jean-Pierre last November, after a White House briefing during which President Biden’s spokeswoman first used the phrase to attack Republicans.
“Unfortunately, we have seen mega MAGA Republican officials who don’t believe in the rule of law. They refuse to accept the results of free and fair elections and they fan the flames of political violence through what they praise and what they refuse to condemn. It remains important for the President to state strongly and unequivocally that violence has no place in our democracy,” Jean-Pierre said during a Nov. 2 White House briefing.
Biden, 80, first used the term “mega MAGA” during an Oct. 21 speech decrying Republican economic policies as “mega MAGA trickle down.”
Jean-Pierre is the at least the fourth Biden administration official found to have violated the Hatch Act.
In April, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra was last year when he publicly endorsed California Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla’s re-election.
“To my brother, my friend and senator, and someone I will be voting for in a little bit more than a month, Alex Padilla, thank you so much, senator, for being there for all of us,” Becerra said after accepting an award at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Annual Awards Gala on Sept. 15, 2022. “We are proud to have you as our senator.”
Then-White House chief of staff Ron Klain also restrictions on political solicitation by retweeting a May 22, 2022, Twitter post that encouraged people to buy the partisan Democratic group Strike PAC’s “Democrats Deliver” merchandise, the OSC found in October of last year.
Then-White House press secretary Jen Psaki also in 2021 by speaking in support of Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s gubernatorial campaign.
Hatch Act violators can be fined up to $1,000 and face bans on federal employment, though punishments are generally far less severe and come in the form of unwelcome attention.