After Hillary Clinton walked scot-free despite having evidence of multiple violations of federal law in mishandling national-security information, why would anyone expect Barack Obama to hold other Cabinet officials to the legal standard? Julian Castro won’t get prosecuted or even punished by his boss for politicking on the job despite the conclusion from the Office of Special Counsel that the HUD Secretary violated the Hatch Act. Why? Because he’s really sorry, according to White House spokesman Josh Earnest:
“I think, to his credit, Secretary Castro acknowledged the mistake that he made,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest.
“He owned up to it, and he’s taken the necessary steps to prevent it from happening again,” Earnest told reporters.
“I think that’s the expectation that people have when you make a mistake, particularly in a situation like this.”
Particularly in a situation like … what? As The Hill’s Vicki Needham notes, the “situation” is that Castro’s on the short list in Hillary Clinton’s veepstakes. The Obama administration didn’t work as hard as it did to avoid prosecuting the top of the ticket under 18 USC 793 just to indict a potential running mate over the Hatch Act. Come on, man.
This leaves us with a big question: just why do we have a Hatch Act, if it won’t be prosecuted or even punished? The act prevents — theoretically, anyway — executive branch officials from using their office to promote partisan and electoral politics. Congress passed the law to prevent officials from using government resources to perpetuate their power, at least explicitly. This was a particularly egregious violation, because not only did Castro use an interview with Yahoo’s Katie Couric to promote Hillary when he was being interviewed in his role as the head of HUD, he used HUD facilities to have the interview conducted, too.
In fact, the only time a Hatch Act violation matters is in “situations” like this — where the governing party is using government resources to promote its own electoral prospects. If a violation of that prohibition costs nothing more than an oopsie! and a promise not to do it again, then don’t expect it to have any further disincentive on politicians or political parties, even when internal watchdogs make it clear that violations have occurred. Rule of law, RIP. It was fun while it lasted.