Political Limits on Executive Branch Employees: The Hatch Act

Political Limits on Executive Branch Employees



In 1939, Congress passed The Hatch Act, named after Senator Carl Hatch of Arizona. During the Great Depression, many politicians and government bureaucrats had begun using the government agencies developed by the New Deal policies to promote their own elections and re-elections. After exposure of some of these scandals, Congress moved to restrict the political campaign behavior of people who already hold office or are members of government agencies (mostly in the Executive Branch). The goal was to create a non-partisan bureaucracy to run the agencies of government without fear of political retribution or political interference in elections.  Recently, questions about Hatch Act violations have arisen as the 2020 Presidential Campaign season approaches and the incumbent President prepares to run again for office.

Video Resources:

One federal agency’s guide on the Hatch Act to its employees (from the US Department of Agriculture)



Story on recent Hatch Act Violation Issue (from CBS News)


Podcast Option:

Civics 101: Episode 110 – The Hatch Act


Background information on the Hatch Act:

The Hatch Act Frequently Asked Questions on Federal Employees and the Use of Social Media and Email – from the Office of Special Counsel

United States Office of Government Ethics Hatch Act Information – from the US OGE

Links to recent news about the Hatch Act:

What Is the Hatch Act? Why Kellyanne Conway Is Accused of Violations:  “A federal watchdog recommended Thursday that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway be removed from her post due to violations of the Hatch Act…” (Fortune Magazine)

There’s Plenty of Precedent for Feds Facing Discipline and Removal for Hatch Act Violations:  “In its original report to the White House, OSC said that if Conway went unpunished it would “send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions.” ”   (Government Executive News)

Did Jared Kushner Violate the Hatch Act? “… the congressmen [Representatives Donald Beyer Jr. of Virginia and Ted Lieu of California], citing recent media reports, accused Kushner, in his official White House role, of “taking a direct role in raising funds” for Trump’s reelection campaign. (Newsweek)

Federal Office says Kellyanne Conway should be removed from office: “Never has (the office) had to issue multiple reports to the President concerning Hatch Act violations by the same individual.” (CNN)