The Corner

Politics & Policy

A Biden Cabinet Secretary Violated Federal Law. So What?

Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) gavels in the second session at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pa., July 26, 2016. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Joe Biden’s HUD Secretary, Marcia Fudge, violated the Hatch Act’s bar on partisan political activity in the federal workplace. That’s not my opinion; it’s the conclusion of the Office of Special Counsel. It is almost certain, however, that nothing of consequence will happen to Fudge. This illustrates a point I made last summer, when Democrats were hyperventilating about a Hatch Act violation in then–secretary of state Mike Pompeo speaking at the Republican convention: Nobody wants to see anyone on their own side punished for violating the law, there is a long record of Democrats getting away with violations (particularly during the Obama years), and we really should just end the pretense that people who have spent a lifetime in partisan politics and are presidential appointees are somehow criminals if they engage in partisan politics.

Fudge’s violation appears to have been less egregious than many prior examples — she was asked at a White House press briefing to comment on the Senate race in Ohio (where Fudge was a mayor for eight years before representing an Ohio district in Congress for 13 years), and after being pestered twice, she answered. Presumably, nobody told the White House press corps that they were soliciting a violation of federal law. Barack Obama’s HUD secretary, Julian Castro, did much the same thing, boosting Hillary Clinton’s candidacy in an official interview. There is no good reason for this to be a federal crime, or even a federal regulatory violation. We should stop pretending that it is, before some rogue prosecutor decides to enforce the thing — maybe as payback against a prior administration — and create a major scandal.

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