Our Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julian Castro, has been getting a lot of buzz as a potential VP selection for Hillary Clinton, but this week he’s making headlines of a different sort. The Office of Special Counsel released a statement including one phrase which cabinet members and potential national candidates probably don’t want to see associated with their name… violated federal law. (CNN)
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro violated a federal law against mixing official business with politics when he touted Hillary Clinton in an April interview with Yahoo’s Katie Couric, the Office of Special Counsel said Monday.
Castro is a top surrogate for Clinton’s presidential campaign and — while not expected to be the choice — is often mentioned on lists of vice presidential prospects.
He violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal workers acting in their official capacity from attempting to influence elections. In the Couric interview, he appeared with the official HUD seal, was introduced as the secretary and spent the first seven minutes focused on HUD programs before Couric turned to Clinton.
Castro’s spokesperson is describing this as an inadvertent error, though the text of the speech in question makes it seem pretty clear that he knew he was treading on some questionable ground. During the interview being cited, he prefaced his remarks by saying he was, “taking off my HUD hat for a second and just speaking individually.” But that calls into question the functionality of the Hatch Act in the first place.
Passed back in the World War II era, the law was described as, An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities. It was supposed to prevent many (though not all) Executive Branch office holders from using their office to engage in politicking to the advantage of their party on the taxpayer dime. But so many speeches which cabinet members give are clearly designed to promote the policies and agenda of the current administration while contrasting them with those of the opposing party (without mentioning anyone by name) that it’s rather hard to pin them down. True, Castro was a bit more blunt in his promotion of Clinton specifically, but can we really separate politics from government any more?
Still, the law is what it is and now Castro will have to answer for this violation. So I assume that means that he’ll be prosecuted even those he’s a close friend of Hillary Clinton, right?
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(*cough*) Sorry about that.