The Campaign Spot

Does the Hatch Act Apply to ‘Arthur’?

A wise reader wonders if the appearance of the PBS children’s-series character “Arthur” at a press conference with House Democrats runs afoul of the Hatch Act.

The first question to be resolved is whether the individual wearing the “Arthur” suit is a federal employee or not.

If the “Arthur” is a federal employee, the Hatch Act permits federal employees to “attend and be active at political rallies and meetings,” so that would seem to cover it. But the Hatch Act also prohibits ”engaging in political activity while in official uniform.” Obviously, this provision is most frequently applied to military personnel.

But if your job at a PBS station is to wear the Arthur suit for events, isn’t that your “official uniform”? The whole point of the rally is that “Arthur” was there, not merely “the guy who dresses up as Arthur.”

The chances of anything coming of this are small. But besides the garden-variety exploitation of children’s-book characters to avert a serious discussion of whether the federal government should be subsidizing television programming in an era of runaway debt, we have the frustrating example of taxpayer-funded resources being used to argue against the taxpayers’ being relieved of that expense.


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