Oops: Sebelius broke the law campaigning for Obama at an official event
posted at 1:21 pm on September 13, 2012 by Erika Johnsen
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, of ObamaCare-implementation fame (or rather, notoriety, as the case may be), had a bit of a slip-up that violated federal law during an official government event when she ‘accidentally’ endorsed President Obama and a local Democratic politician. Via CNN:
The Office of the Special Counsel on Wednesday announced it was citing Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius for illegally making political comments at an official event, which is a violation of the federal Hatch Act.
The counsel found that she made the comments when delivering the keynote speech at the Human Rights Campaign Gala in February.
The law prohibits most federal employees from “engaging in political activity while on duty,” according to the special counsel, but some officials, such as cabinet secretaries, are permitted to make political statements in their personal capacity. The Office of Special Counsel is an independent government agency which can investigate and prosecute.
The counsel found that “the Secretary departed from her prepared outline” when she told attendees at the event, “it’s hugely important to make sure that we reelect the President and elect a Democratic governor here in North Carolina.”
Obviously, it’s not like the ideological bent is a surprise or anything, and the very nature of a cabinet official’s job is to make their party’s policies look good, but I do think that the average taxpayer minds when a high-up government employee specifically campaigns for their boss and their party on our time and our dime — hence one of the reasons for the Hatch Act in the first place. When she was found out, it appears that Sebelius reclassified the trip from official to political and reimbursed the feds, and wrote in an e-mail to the Office of Special Counsel that “keeping the roles straight can be a difficult task, particularly on mixed trips that involve both campaign and official stops on the same day” and argued that she really doesn’t think this needs to be an issue anymore (the special counsel is now forwarding their report to President Obama for “appropriate action,” uh huh). I’m sure that it is a difficult job, toeing the line between officiating and campaigning, but it is your job, so please do try, won’t you? And yeah, it seems pretty minor, but with all of the inefficiencies, oversights, and instances of corruption coming out of our federal government on a daily basis, it is ever-so-slightly quelling that we have yet to descend into some complete China-like quagmire of underhanded crookedness in which even just potentially sketchy activities like this are allowed to slide without being called out by a free and open press. Just sayin’.