Watchdog finds Granholm violated Hatch Act, issues warning

·2 min read

A government watchdog has found that Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm violated the Hatch Act after she made comments in support of the Democratic Party, but let her off with a warning because she had not received proper training.

The Hatch Act prevents government employees from using their official position to influence elections.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), an independent government agency, dinged Granholm over comments she made during an interview with the magazine Marie Claire.

“The good news is that that marching and that voting gave Democrats a bare majority, but a majority, in the House, in the Senate,” Granholm said during a live interview on Instagram, according to a letter sent to the complainant.

“And again, I am using Democrats as a substitute for the policies that you believe in, the policies that you would like to see happen,” Granholm continued.

The OSC found that Granholm’s comments were political and promoted electoral success for the Democratic Party.

“Because Secretary Granholm engaged in activity directed at the success of the Democratic Party during an interview she gave in her official capacity—she violated the Hatch Act’s use of official authority prohibition,” said the OSC letter.

But it also said that at the time Granholm made the comments, she hadn’t received significant training on the matter, adding that since then, she has learned about the law’s restrictions.

The finding follows a complaint by a right-wing group called the Foundation for Accountability & Civic Trust.

An Energy Department spokesperson, in a statement, said that the OSC notified Granholm of an “unintended and unknowing infraction.”

“The Office of Special Counsel has advised the Secretary of a single unintended and unknowing infraction and this complaint is now closed,” the spokesperson said.

“Secretary Granholm takes her ethics obligations seriously. And, she remains laser focused on delivering President Biden’s equitable clean energy agenda which will help lower energy costs for American families and enhance our nation’s security,” the spokesperson added.

Meanwhile, Foundation for Accountability & Civic Trust executive director Kendra Arnold said in a statement that her group is “satisfied the Office of Special Counsel investigated thoroughly and found a clear violation in this case.”

Updated at 4:38 p.m.

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