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Tags Current Affairs

Hatch Act

Date: 01 September 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

During this week’s Republican National Convention, many accused Trump, and senior members of his administration, of disregarding ethics norms meant to prevent government interference in political activity.

 

Background

Experts believe that these instances are violations of the Hatch Act– a 1939 federal law that limits government meddling in partisan activities.

 

Details

  • Ever since the United States was founded, leaders like Thomas Jefferson expressed concerns over political activities of government servants while on official duty.

  • A federal law to address this issue was finally enacted in 1939 during the Great Depression era and was named after Carl Hatch, a Senator from New Mexico state.

  • The law is enforced by the Office of the Special Counsel (OSC), an independent federal agency which also oversees various other laws applying to federal employees, and receives complaints about alleged violations.

  • The Hatch Act is regarded as a workplace guideline, and although flouting its provisions does not amount to a crime, punishments can be severe; career government employees can be terminated, demoted, or ordered to pay fines. Political appointees generally face less severe repercussions.

  • The Act does not apply to the President and the Vice President of the US, but to all other civilian employees in the executive branch of the federal government.

  • While cases involving career employees are adjudicated by a federal agency called the Merit Systems Protection Board, the decision to terminate political appointees is taken by the President.

  • Since Trump came to office, critics have accused him of disregarding the Hatch Act on purpose, and few expect him to take action against alleged violators such as Pompeo and Wolf.

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