A former director of the US Office of Government Ethics says he filed an official complaint against White House counselor Kellyanne Conway for what he argues was a violation of the Hatch Act after she attacked GOP Alabama Senate hopeful Roy Moore’s opponent on television Tuesday.
Walter Shaub, who served as ethics director under the Obama administration, said Conway likely violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits White House officials from advocating for or against candidates, even in media interviews.
Speaking to Fox News Monday, Conway addressed the heated Alabama race and Moore’s Democratic competitor, saying, “Doug Jones in Alabama, folks, don’t be fooled. He will be a vote against tax cuts. He is weak on crime. Weak on borders. He is strong on raising your taxes. He is terrible for property owners.”
Conway added: “I just want everybody to know, Doug Jones, nobody ever says his name, and pretends he is some kind of conservative Democrat in Alabama. And he’s not.”
Shaub tweeted following news of the interview Tuesday, “I found the video. She’s standing In front of the White House. It seems pretty clear she was appearing in her official capacity when she advocated against a candidate. This is at least as clear a violation of 5 U.S.C. § 7323(a)(1) as OSC identified with regard to Castro.”
Previously Shaub had shared a link to a 2016 document showing a ruling from the Office of Special Counsel finding that then-Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro guilty of violating the Hatch Act for endorsing a candidate on air.
White House spokesman Raj Shah responded with a statement, saying, “Ms. Conway did not advocate for or against the election of a candidate, and specifically declined to encourage Alabamans to vote a certain way. She was speaking about issues and her support for the President’s agenda. This election is for the people of Alabama to decide.”
On Wednesday morning, Shaub tweeted that he had gone ahead and filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel against Conway.
“She was speaking about issues and her support for the President’s agenda. This election is for the people of Alabama to decide,” he added.
Conway found herself in hot water earlier this year when she plugged President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka’s clothing and accessory line. Conway, in a Fox News interview from the White House in February, urged people to “go buy Ivanka’s stuff.”
The comments were critiqued as running afoul of federal law that bars public employees from making an “endorsement of any product, service or enterprise, or for the private gain of friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity.”