Dr. Ben Carson, Housing and Urban Development Secretary, seems to have committed a crime during President Donald Trump’s rally in Phoenix this week. It happened rather fast and few seemed to notice at first.
The law he may have broke has to do with the Hatch Act, which essentially states that many members of the executive branch are not allowed to “engage in partisan activity”. Essentially… Carson’s not allowed to appear at events such as this in an official capacity.
As reported by The Daily Caller:
“The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. Ben Carson,” an unseen announcer declared as Carson took the stage.
And with that terse, uninspired introduction, a federal law was probably broken.
The 1939 Hatch Act was signed to insulate most of the executive branch from partisan politics. While the president, the vice president, and a few other designated officers are at liberty to politick in the course of their official duties, the law prohibits most federal employees, including cabinet secretaries, from engaging in partisan activity.
As the law has been administered by a government watchdog, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), cabinet secretaries are precluded from appearing at campaign rallies in their official capacity. Carson seems to have done so Tuesday night, as he appeared at a rally organized by Trump’s reelection committee as an emcee bellowed his official title to the crowd.
In addition to his introduction, Carson used the subject pronoun “we” and the object pronoun “us” at several junctures during his remarks, as though to explicitly identify himself with the Trump campaign.
Carson’s predecessor as HUD Secretary, Julian Castro, was sanctioned by OSC for a Hatch Act violation under similar circumstances in 2016. Castro gave an interview to Yahoo News in which he advocated for the election of Hillary Clinton and speculated as to his own chances for receiving the Democratic nomination for vice president. Though Castro explicitly emphasized he was not speaking in his capacity as HUD secretary, OSC concluded his efforts to distinguish between his personal and political roles were insufficient.