The Office of the Special Counsel (OSC) announced Wednesday that Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius violated the Hatch Act by delivering political remarks at an official administration event. She had delivered the comments during a keynote speech at the Human Rights Campaign Gala in February.
“Sebelius violated the Hatch Act when she made extemporaneous partisan remarks in a speech delivered in her official capacity on February 25, 2012,” the OSC’s official news release stated. Providing more specific details on the violation, the statement affirmed:
The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from using their official authority or influence to affect the outcome of an election. A federal employee is permitted to make partisan remarks when speaking in their personal capacity, but not when using their official title or when speaking about agency business.
After the event, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reclassified the trip from official to political and issued a statement to that effect. Secretary Sebelius and HHS reimbursed the U.S. Treasury for all costs and expenses associated with her travel to the event. OSC found no evidence that Secretary Sebelius made any other political statements in her official capacity.
Sebelius’ violation was far from subtle, as she explicitly called for the reelection of President Obama, among other Democrats. The counsel discovered that “the Secretary departed from her prepared outline” when she declared to the event gathering, “it’s hugely important to make sure that we reelect the President and elect a Democratic governor here in North Carolina.”
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