Kellyanne Conway and the Hatch Act

Presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway stands accused of violating the Hatch Act. The alleged violations consist mostly of comments Conway made on various news shows disparaging certain Democratic candidates such as Joe Biden, Cory Booker, and Elizabeth Warren.

I very much doubt that the Hatch Act was intended to bar the president’s political advisers from criticizing potential opponents. The Office of Special Counsel (not to be confused with Robert Mueller’s former shop) is the outfit that found Conway guilty of Hatch Act violations and said she should be removed from her job. It describes the purposes of the Act as “to ensure that federal programs are administered in a nonpartisan fashion, to protect federal employees from political coercion in the workplace, and to ensure that federal employees are advanced based on merit and not based on political affiliation.”

Conway is not involved in administering federal programs. Her punditry does not in any way coerce federal employees in the workplace. And it has no bearing on which federal employees will advance.

One of Conway’s important duties is to do media appearances, a demand not placed on presidential advisers in the entirely different media environment of 1939 when the Hatch Act was passed. The notion that during such interviews she can’t talk candidly about the likes of Joe Biden and Cory Booker is goofy. Democracy would be ill-served by such a bar.

A few weeks ago, in response to questions about the Hatch Act implications of her comments, Conway stated: “blah, blah, blah.” President Trump’s response to calls that he fire Conway should be just as dismissive.