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Press Release

Press Release: FCC Commissioner Found to Have Violated the Hatch Act

Today, the Project On Government Oversight received official notice from the Office of Special Counsel that, in response to our complaint, it completed an investigation into comments made by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, and concluded that he had violated the Hatch Act.

During a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 23, 2018, O’Rielly, speaking in his official capacity, said, “What we can do is make sure as conservatives that we elect good people to both the House, the Senate and make sure that President Trump gets re-elected.” The Hatch Act bars federal executive branch employees, except for the President and the Vice President, from endorsing or advocating for or against partisan political candidates, political parties, or political organizations when speaking in their official capacity.

POGO filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) just days later, demanding an investigation. Today, OSC notified us that its investigation into O’Rielly’s comments concluded that he violated the Hatch Act. Accordingly, OSC has issued him a warning letter.

“I’m encouraged to see the Office of Special Counsel continue to take Hatch Act complaints seriously. The Hatch Act contains important provisions to keep partisan politics out of the executive branch, and enforcing it is in the best interest of each American citizen,” said Liz Hempowicz, POGO’s director of public policy.

“Federal employees, while on the clock in their official roles, are acting on the taxpayer’s dime. They shouldn’t be using their time—and therefore, taxpayer dollars—to advance anyone’s partisan agenda,” said POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian. “We need to be able to trust our government to act in the public interest, not partisan interests.”