A federal ethics agency has determined that Kellyanne Conway broke the law twice last year while advocating for the election of Republican Roy Moore in the U.S. Senate race in Alabama.
The Office of Special Counsel found that Conway violated the Hatch Act while giving live television interviews from the White House lawn, NPR reports.
The OSC—not to be confused with the team of Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller—is an independent federal ethics investigative and prosecutorial agency.
The Hatch Act is a federal law passed in 1939 that essentially prohibits federal employees from practicing partisan politics while on the job.
The OSC says that during two separate television interviews last year—one with Fox News and one with CNN—Conway discussed the Alabama Senate race while standing in front of the White House and using her official title of “counselor to the president” while repeatedly attacking Moore’s opponent, Democrat Doug Jones.
Then, in a Nov. 20 appearance on Fox & Friends, Conway said, “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’s strong on raising your taxes. He is terrible for property owners.”
OSC’s report (pdf) reads in part:
While the Hatch Act allows federal employees to express their views about candidates and political issues as private citizens, it restricts employees from using their official government positions for partisan political purposes, including by trying to influence partisan elections.
Ms. Conway’s statements during the Fox & Friends and [CNN’s] New Day interviews impermissibly mixed official government business with political views about candidates in the Alabama special election for U.S. Senate.
According to the OSC, Conway never responded to its inquiries. Because Conway is a high-ranking presidential appointee, the report has been submitted to the president for “appropriate disciplinary action” because only Donald Trump can decide what action—if any—is appropriate.
Of course, the White House has already pushed back on the report, according to NPR. Its argument is that Conway argued neither for nor against any candidate in the Alabama Senate race.
Deputy press secretary Hogan Gridley said in a statement: “She simply expressed the president’s obvious position that he have people in the House and Senate who support his agenda. In fact, Kellyanne’s statements actually show her intention and desire to comply with the Hatch Act—as she twice declined to respond to the host’s specific invitation to encourage Alabamans to vote for the Republican.”
This is not the first time Conway has been called out for an ethics violation. During a February 2017 interview, she endorsed the fashion line of the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump. The president did not discipline Conway in that instance, drawing the ire of then-OSC head Walter Shaub.
We’ll have to wait and see if Donald Trump takes any action this time.