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In light of significant media interest in the Hatch Act over the last several days, and specifically its application to the Republican National Convention, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) today released the following information to clarify its role.
OSC has jurisdiction to enforce the Hatch Act, a civil administrative law that limits the political activities of federal executive branch employees. But the law expressly does not apply to the President or the Vice President. OSC also has no statutory authority to enforce or advise on criminal provisions derived from the Hatch Act and found in title 18 of the U.S. Code—including 18 U.S.C. § 610. That task belongs solely to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Under longstanding regulations governing the Hatch Act, there are certain areas of the White House where the Hatch Act does not prohibit federal employees from engaging in political activity. The South Lawn and Rose Garden are two such areas. Therefore, covered federal employees would not necessarily violate the Hatch Act merely by attending political events in those areas.
Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner: “Under the Hatch Act, OSC is charged with encouraging compliance with the law through its robust training and advisory functions. OSC's role does not include grandstanding or holding press conferences about potential violations that may or may not occur. Ultimately, officials and employees choose whether to comply with the law. Once they make that choice, it is OSC's statutory role to receive complaints, investigate alleged Hatch Act violations, and determine which ones warrant prosecution. Through this statutory scheme, OSC holds officials and employees accountable when they don't comply with the law. OSC takes its job seriously and in recent months has increased the number of Hatch Act Unit staff to respond to the growing number of complaints typically received during election years. OSC will continue to vigorously and even-handedly enforce the Hatch Act, consistent with its statutory authorities."