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OSC Response to June 11, 2019 Office of White House Counsel letter

Hatch Act
OSC respects the Office of White House Counsel but respectfully disagrees with its position, and will not withdraw its Report sent to the President finding numerous Hatch Act violations.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) respects the Office of White House Counsel but respectfully disagrees with its position, and will not withdraw its Report​ sent to the President today finding numerous Hatch Act violations made by Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway (OSC File Nos. HA-19-0631 and HA-19-3395).

As a threshold matter, OSC strongly rejects the Office of White House Counsel’s unfortunate characterization of our Hatch Act Report as tainted by improper considerations. OSC stands by the professionalism and integrity of its career federal employees who carried out this investigation and compiled the Report. As a unit, they represent decades of experience enforcing the Hatch Act and have never carried out their duties in a manner suggesting partisan bias. As dedicated public servants, they take pride in OSC’s important mission to ensure that the federal workplace is based on merit principles and free from partisan political influences.

In addition, the Office of White House Counsel’s letter seriously misrepresents the process leading up to the issuance of this Report. OSC repeatedly attempted to engage with the White House in efforts to bring Ms. Conway into compliance with the Hatch Act.

The contention that OSC’s Report is legally, factually, and procedurally in error is similarly without merit. OSC’s findings are well grounded in established legal principles governing Hatch Act enforcement. The Report accurately reflects the facts and history of this case, and our handling of this matter has been procedurally sound.

Pursuant to the clear statutory directive and consistent with OSC’s longstanding past practice, we forwarded our Report to the President. OSC will not be responding to the Office of White House Counsel’s intrusive demand for our investigative files and other documents. Such requests, including for the “entire investigation files relating to the Report,” if OSC chooses not to “withdraw and retract its Report,” are wholly inappropriate. These requests represent a significant encroachment on OSC’s independence. This attempt by the Counsel’s office to oversee our investigative and enforcement authority introduces a serious perception of undue influence in an apparent effort to bias the outcome of OSC’s independent investigation.

We appreciate the Office of White House Counsel’s previously stated commitment to ensuring that all federal employees, including White House staff, are properly trained in abiding by the Hatch Act’s restrictions on partisan political activity. We also share its stated desire that our offices continue to collaborate in fostering a culture of compliance at the White House. OSC is fully committed to assisting all federal employees, including those in the White House, in exercising their First Amendment rights while abiding by the restrictions imposed by the Hatch Act.