A credible reform organization alleged an ethics violation against the Trump Administration, and the media was chomping at the bit to run with the story. Outlets like Yahoo, AOL, The Hill, Huffington Post, Newsweek, and others all covered the story leading with the likelihood of a Hatch Act offense.
Except, respectfully, the issue really wasn’t a big deal nor was it likely a violation.
The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a respected albeit strongly left-leaning reform group, filed a complaint against Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders because she tweeted a photo of herself with Kanye West, who was wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.
Here is the opinion cited by the organization: https://osc.gov/resources/candidate%20trump%20hatch%20act%20guidance%203-5-2018.pdf.
While the opinion is a pretty broad reading of the Hatch Act, it is unlikely the opinion could be construed to say that an employee could not post a picture of themselves with someone who was wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.
Moreover, beyond the language of the Hatch Act and this opinion, it is even more clear that Sanders did not violate the spirit of the law, which is to use taxpayer funds to campaign and influence an election.
Consider the following:
- West’s appearance at the White House was the most covered story of the day. For even those few who may be inclined to think more highly of the president because of the rapper’s support, Sanders’ tweet did nothing to make the public more aware of that fact.
- Agree or disagree on his credibility. Approve or disapprove of his rant. The premise of West’s visit was to discuss issues with President Trump.
- It is natural for the Press Secretary to get a photo with a celebrity presence at the White House. Kanye West has been publicly wearing his MAGA for some time and was already on camera with the president wearing the hat. It would be a stranger photo- and arguably one more concerning- if he were told to take the hat off.
So what’s the point?
There are real problems with ethics in our country. There have been real problems within the Trump Administration, and we have been some of the strongest critics on the Right regarding some of the financial concerns.
With real problems abounding, reform organizations lose credibility with hyper-partisan attacks over non-issues. Only the most zealous reading of the Hatch Act would find Sanders in violation, and the spirit of the law was not undermined.
We need allies on all sides of the spectrum, and our hope is that organizations “hold their fire” when it comes to petty, partisan issues.
What do you think? Do you agree that the complaint is petty and likely in error? Or, is it an issue that Sanders would tweet the photo of her and West? Join the conversation at https://www.facebook.com/takebackorg/.