Conway appeared on Fox News last week to trash Alabama Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones, who is trying to defeat disgraced accused serial child predator Roy Moore.
“Doug Jones in Alabama, folks, don’t be fooled. He will be a vote against tax cuts. He is weak on crime. Weak on borders. He’s strong on raising your taxes. He is terrible for property owners,” Conway said on “Fox & Friends.” “I just want everybody to know Doug Jones, nobody ever says his name and pretends he is some kind of conservative Democrat in Alabama. And he’s not.”
The comments prompted Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, to file a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel accusing Conway of violating the Hatch Act, a federal law that bans federal employees from using their positions to campaign for political candidates.
“Which is precisely what presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway did last week,” Shaub wrote in a Washington Post editorial.
“When Conway appeared on ‘Fox and Friends” last Monday, it was clear she was doing so in an official capacity: One of the show’s hosts introduced her by her title and she articulated the administration’s views as she stood in front of the White House,” Shaub wrote. “In discussing whether the president has enough votes to get a tax bill through the Senate, Conway (without prompting) attacked Doug Jones.”
“Only in a world of alternative facts could Conway’s televised words amount to anything other than advocacy against Jones,” he said.
On Wednesday, Shaub tweeted an email he received from Ana Galindo-Marrone, the head of the Offical of Special Counsel’s Hatch Act Unit, informing them that they have started an investigation into his complaint.
“We have received your Hatch Act complaint and will open a case file to address this matter,” she wrote.
“WH defended Conway against @CampaignLegal’s Hatch Act complaint by saying her words about Jones supported POTUS’s agenda,” Shaub wrote in the tweet. “That’s an admission of guilt! Jones’ only relevance to POTUS is his bid for Senate, and the topic was: Does POTUS have the votes in the Senate for a tax bill.”
WH defended Conway against @CampaignLegal’s Hatch Act complaint by saying her words about Jones supported POTUS’s agenda. That’s an admission of guilt! Jones’ only relevance to POTUS is his bid for Senate, and the topic was: Does POTUS have the votes in the Senate for a tax bill. pic.twitter.com/s5GJmiru5i
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) November 29, 2017
Raj Shah, a deputy White House press secretary, had defended Conway’s rhetoric in a statement saying, “Ms. Conway did not advocate for or against the election of a candidate, and specifically declined to encourage Alabamans to vote a certain way.”
“She was speaking about issues and her support for the President’s agenda. This election is for the people of Alabama to decide,” he said.
The Special Counsel’s Office, which is not related to special counsel Bob Mueller, has opened an investigation but whether Conway is punished is another story. For one, Hatch Act violations rarely result in major penalties. And, as Shaub points out, the office of the Special Counsel is run by a Trump appointee.
“Kerner comes from a conservative group called the Cause of Action Institute,” Shaub wrote. “When I served as director of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), Cause of Action was the only organization that wrote to me in defense of Conway after she told Americans to ‘go buy Ivanka’s stuff.’ The group claimed Conway was exempt from OGE’s ethics regulations and that OGE lacked authority to oversee the White House’s ethics program, despite four decades of White House compliance with OGE oversight and an example in OGE’s White House-approved regulations expressly highlighting their applicability to White House staff.”