Government Watchdog Seeks Investigation of Interior Secretary for Violating Hatch Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 27, 2018

Contact: Daniel Stevens, dstevens@campaignforaccountability.org, 202.780.5750

WASHIGNTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability, a government watchdog group focused on public accountability, called on the Office of Special Counsel to investigate whether Secretary Ryan Zinke violated the Hatch Act by wearing a pair of socks bearing the likeness of President Trump and his campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again”, while participating in the Western Governors’ Association’s (“WGA”) annual meeting.

Read the complaint here.

CfA Executive Director Daniel E. Stevens said, “Secretary Zinke continues to play fast and loose with federal ethics laws. The Secretary of the Interior should know better than to promote a campaign slogan while touring a national park. The Office of Special Counsel should investigate Secretary Zinke’s conduct and sanction him for violating the Hatch Act.”

On June 26, 2018, Secretary Zinke participated in the WGA’s annual meeting in South Dakota.  During a hike at Mount Rushmore National Park with governors from western states, Secretary Zinke wore a pair of socks bearing the likeness of President Trump, as well as President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.  Secretary Zinke then posted a picture of himself wearing socks from his official Twitter account.

After CfA called attention to Secretary Zinke’s tweet, it was deleted.  Secretary Zinke then posted a tweet that said, “Earlier I tweeted a pic of my new socks not realizing it had what could be viewed as a political slogan. I’ve deleted it and apologize for the mistake. I remain excited about all the incredible policy work POTUS is doing.”  The new tweet contained a picture of the socks with the campaign slogan blacked out.

The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity while on duty.  Specifically, the Office of Special Counsel, which enforces the Hatch Act, issued a memo in March 5, 2018, stating:

While on duty or in the workplace, employees may not: wear, display, or distribute items with the slogan “Make America Great Again” or any other materials from President Trump’s 2016 or 2020 campaigns; use hashtags such as #MAGA or #ResistTrump in social media posts or other forums; or display non-official pictures of President Trump.

Secretary Zinke clearly violated the Hatch Act by wearing the socks to an official function and also by tweeting out a picture of himself wearing the socks.

Stevens continued, “Americans expect their public officials to work for everyone not just the members of their own political party. Secretary Zinke violated the Hatch Act and then tweeted out an apology in which he admitted he broke the law.  Secretary Zinke should serve as a better example for employees at the Department of the Interior and uphold America’s laws.”

CfA is nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.