White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre been accused for a second time of violating the Hatch Act, a federal law that restricts political activity by government officials while on duty or in official communications.
A federal watchdog group, Protect the Public’s Trust, filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel after Jean-Pierre’s repeated alleged infractions. Although the OSC initially determined that the accusations had merit, the press secretary will face no disciplinary action over her continued use of the term “MAGA” to describe Republicans, while she is on the clock as an official of the White House.
The controversy surrounding Jean-Pierre’s alleged violations began prior to the 2022 mid-term elections when she made statements during a press briefing that the Protect the Public Trust argued were in violation of the Hatch Act.
The Office of Special Counsel agreed with PPT’s allegation in June of 2023, concluding that the press secretary’s statements did breach the law against campaigning on official time. Instead of imposing disciplinary action, the agency chose to issue a warning.
Along with the warning, the federal agency issued guidance that explicitly prohibits the use of phrases like “MAGA” and other political slogans by federal officials during their official duties or communications.
Despite this, both Karine Jean-Pierre and Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates persisted in using the prohibited phrase in the days following the warning, something noted by Protect the Public Trust.
Bates has used the term “MAGAnomics” repeatedly, as late as last Monday, when he used “MAGAnomics” in the subject line and twice in a memo.
Protect the Public Trust filed a second complaint with the OSC, accusing both officials of blatant disregard for the Hatch Act and the OSC’s guidance. However, the OSC opted not to pursue disciplinary action for a second time.
In a letter dated late October, the OSC claimed that while Jean-Pierre and Bates’s actions were “contrary to our June 7 warning letter and advisory opinion,” they believed that White House officials were now “abiding by the warning letter and advisory opinion,” leading to the decision to close the matter without consequences.
The controversy surrounding Jean-Pierre’s alleged violations is one of several instances where the OSC has faced criticism for appearing to neglect its statutory duty to enforce the Hatch Act.