A government watchdog organization has filed a complaint accusing White House press secretary Jen Psaki of violating the Hatch Act.
The news came after she appeared to praise Virginia Democrat gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe during her briefing on Thursday, the New York Post reported Friday.
“The complaint from Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington (CREW) to the Office of Special Counsel alleged that Psaki had improperly used her office to affect the outcome of next month’s election,” the outlet said.
She had been asked if the Biden administration believed McAuliffe’s race against Republican Glenn Youngkin was a “bellwether” before the 2022 midterm elections, the Post article continued:
“Well, I have to be a little careful about how much political analysis I do from here,” Psaki began before saying that President Biden “of course wants former Gov. McAuliffe to be the future governor of Virginia. There is alignment on a lot of their agenda, whether it is the need to invest in rebuilding our roads, rails, and bridges, or making it easier for women to rejoin the workforce.”
“We’re going to do everything we can to help former Governor McAuliffe, and we believe in the agenda he’s representing,” she noted.
In a press release, CREW said the comments appeared to be an endorsement of his candidacy, and detailed the Hatch Act.
“The Hatch Act prohibits executive branch employees from ‘us[ing their] official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.’ ‘Political activity’ is defined as ‘an activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group,’” it stated.
CREW’s complaint accuses her of “impermissibly mixing official government business with advocacy for former Governor McAuliffe’s election.”
“[W]hile Ms. Psaki did not explicitly urge voting for Governor McAuliffe, her statements appear to have been aimed at his success in a partisan political election,” the document said.
It also encouraged the Office of Special Counsel to “commence an immediate investigation into the conduct described in this letter and take any appropriate disciplinary action against Ms. Psaki.”
Psaki responded during an interview on CNN Friday, stating, “I take ethics seriously. So does this president, of course. As I understand it, if I had said ‘he’ instead of ‘we,’ that would not have been an issue at all, and I’ll be more careful with my words next time. Words certainly matter.”