The newly sworn-in secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development may have violated an ethics law by endorsing Democratic candidates in a Senate race.
Housing Secretary Marcia Fudge, a former U.S. representative, in her first press conference in office, told reporters on March 18 that she had two friends who were considering running for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).
“Tim Ryan, of course, is thinking about it. I understand that Nan Whaley is thinking about it. I mean, I think we’re going to put a good person in that race no matter who we choose, but they’re both friends. I think we have a good shot at it. I know people have written off Ohio. I haven’t written off Ohio. I believe we can win the Senate race,” she said.
Ryan is a U.S. representative, and Whaley is the mayor of Dayton, Ohio. Both are Democrats.
Experts said the remarks may have violated the Hatch Act, which bars federal employees from using their positions while engaged in political activity.
“Under the Hatch Act, if you are giving an official policy talk at the White House, you cannot talk about the prospects for the Democratic Party or Republican Party in an Ohio Senate race. It’s completely inappropriate and would violate the Hatch Act,” Richard Painter, the top White House ethics lawyer during George W. Bush’s administration, told the Washington Post.
Noah Bookbinder, president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, said, “It is entering a dangerous territory when an official starts talking about a specific race and about which party can win and about their own party.”
The Office of Special Counsel declined to comment. The office charged with reviewing possible Hatch Act violations.
The White House didn’t return an inquiry.
Fudge told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement that she shouldn’t have answered the question.
“When I was discussing getting relief to the American People and the American Rescue Plan from the briefing room on Thursday, I answered a question from a reporter related to Ohio politics,” she said.
“I acknowledge that I should have stuck with my first instinct and not answered the question. I take these things seriously and I want to assure the American people that I am focused on meeting the needs of our country.”
OSC officials found that multiple officials in the Trump administration violated the Hatch Act, including former adviser Kellyanne Conway.