In a late 2021 interview, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm broke the Hatch Act, according to the US Office of Special Counsel (OSC).
In a response letter delivered on June 9 to the Foundation for Accountability & Civic Trust (FACT), the OSC claimed that during an official interview with media outlet Marie Clare on October 6, Granholm clearly promoted Democratic Party candidates. Soon after the interview was released, FACT asked the OSC to look into the situation.
Granholm said during the interview that it was encouraging that Democrats will hold a majority in the House and Senate in 2020.
According to a letter from Erica Hamrick, the deputy chief of the OSC’s Hatch Act Unit to FACT, “OSC has determined that Secretary Granholm engaged in political activity when she gave this response promoting the electoral success of the Democratic Party.”
He continued, “While she then attempted to backpedal by stating that she was using ‘Democrats as a substitute’ for certain policies, at bottom she told listeners that they needed to vote for Democrats so that more Democrats would be elected to pass the legislation they wanted. Her attempt to backpedal does not change the meaning of her words or undo the fact that she was talking about the Democratic Party throughout her statement.”
Hamrick said, according to the OSC’s findings, Granholm engaged in behavior ultimately intended to advance the Democratic Party and, as a result, violated the Hatch Act’s ban against the abuse of government authority. The 1939 statute limits how much involvement in partisan politics federal workers can have.
The OSC concluded that, notwithstanding Granholm’s breach, no disciplinary action was required. Granholm hadn’t gotten much training on the Hatch Act before the October interview, according to Hamrick, but the energy secretary would still receive a warning letter if she continued to violate the law.