Following Reports of Pompeo Courting GOP Donors, Menendez Reiterates Need for Hatch Act Review

Following Reports of Pompeo Courting GOP Donors, Menendez Reiterates Need for Hatch Act Review

 

WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) renewing his request for a formal probe into whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has violated the Hatch Act, a federal law prohibiting federal officials from engaging in partisan political activity. The Senator’s request follows new reports about Secretary Pompeo’s private meetings with Republican donors during an official State Department delegation to England. 

In late October, Menendez called on the OSC to investigate whether Pompeo had violated the Hatch Act following multiple trips in his capacity as Secretary of State to Kansas, where he is reportedly laying the groundwork for a campaign to run for U.S. Senate in 2020. His last trip included a video that appeared on the State Department’s official Twitter feed, which included no apparent nexus to State Department business. 

“Since my prior letter, the Secretary has reportedly ‘reached out’ to a major Republican donor to ‘gauge interest’ in a potential Senate run and met with a number of individuals, including a group of Republican donors while on official travel in London,” wrote Menendez, citing a new CNN report. “Given the ongoing nature of these activities, as well as increasing speculation that the Secretary is using his federal office and official role to simultaneously garner partisan political support for a potential candidacy, I ask that you review this matter with increased urgency and promptly report back to my office.” 

A copy of the letter can be found here and below:

 

Dear Special Counsel Kerner:

I write to follow up on my prior October 29, 2019 letter requesting a review and assessment of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s compliance with the Hatch Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 7321-7326. 

Since my prior letter, the Secretary has reportedly “reached out” to a major Republican donor to “gauge interest” in a potential Senate run and met with a number of individuals, including a group of Republican donors, while on official travel in London. The Hatch Act provides clear prohibitions on campaign activity by federal officials, including soliciting or accepting contributions for partisan political purposes. Further, federal employees and officials may not engage in political activity while on duty, in uniform, or in a government building or vehicle.

As the OSC has previously—and unambiguously—stated: “The Hatch Act’s prohibition against candidacy ‘extends not merely to the formal announcement of candidacy but also to the preliminaries leading to such announcement and to canvassing or soliciting support or doing or permitting to be done any act in furtherance of candidacy.’” Thus, “any action that can reasonably be construed as evidence that an individual is seeking support for or undertaking an initial ‘campaign’ to secure a nomination or election to office would be viewed as candidacy for purposes of the Hatch Act.”

Given the ongoing nature of these activities, as well as increasing speculation that the Secretary is using his federal office and official role to simultaneously garner partisan political support for a potential candidacy, I ask that you review this matter with increased urgency and promptly report back to my office.

Sincerely,

 

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