The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

The Hatch Act Isn’t Keeping Hillary From Charlotte


Over at ABC News, they write that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will not be speaking at this year’s convention because “federal statute and the State Department’s ethical guidelines prohibit Clinton from participating in political activities such as a party convention. Other cabinet secretaries, such as Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Attorney General Eric Holder, will also not be in Charlotte for the same reasons that will keep Clinton away.”

But several members of Obama’s cabinet are scheduled to speak in Charlotte: Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Small Business Administration administrator Karen Mills, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.

The U.S. State Department may have guidelines that prevent Clinton from speaking, but the Hatch Act permits it — as long as the cabinet member doesn’t use his current title. Thus, the above five cabinet members are referred to as “the honorable” on the official program. The rules:

When engaging in political activity (i.e., activity directed at the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group), such as speaking at a political campaign event, may a Cabinet secretary use the title “Secretary?”Answer: No. Hatch Act regulation states that an employee may not use his or her official title while participating in political activity. 5 C.F.R. § 734.302(b)(1). Accordingly, a Cabinet secretary may not use the official title “Secretary” when engaging in political activity, such as speaking at a political campaign event. However, a Cabinet secretary may use a general form of address, such as “The Honorable,” when engaging in political activity, as such address does not identify his or her position. 5 C.F.R. § 734.302, Example 1.

The fun question will be if anyone forgets and introduces the cabinet figures by referring to them as “Secretary.”

Tags: Democratic National Convention , Hillary Clinton


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