US Health Secretary violates Hatch Act: Govt watchdog

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Washington– US Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra violated the Hatch Act — a law passed in 1939 that prohibits federal employees from using their official authority or influence to affect the outcome of an election, a government watchdog said.

In a letter to President Joe Biden on Tuesday, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) said that Becerra “violated the Hatch Act by expressing support for Senator Alex Padilla’s re-election in the November 2022 midterm elections” while speaking in his official capacity at an event last September, reports Xinhua news agency.

“In delivering his speech, Secretary Becerra impermissibly mixed his personal electoral preference with official remarks,” the OSC letter read.

“While federal employees are permitted to express support for candidates when speaking in their personal capacity, the Hatch Act restricts employees from doing so when speaking as a government official,” it added.

Becerra, in response, called his words an “inadvertent violation” and said he regrets them, adding that he “did not realise at the time that my off-the-cuff remarks” regarding his “personal voting intentions were in violation of the Hatch Act”.

Becerra is one of a handful of Biden administration officials to be cited for violating the Hatch Act.

Former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, former Chief of Staff Ron Klain, and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge all have been warned for making comments about candidates or an election.

The Hatch Act however, does not apply to the President or Vice President. (IANS)


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