Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge violated the Hatch Act when commenting on Ohio politics when she spoke from the White House podium earlier this year, and has been given a warning, according to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.
Fudge was under investigation for comments she made back in March concerning candidates to fill the seat currently occupied by Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who is not seeking reelection in 2022, after she was asked about potential candidates to fill her own House seat, which was left vacant when she joined the Biden administration, reports CNN.
Fudge would not weigh in on the special election to fill her own seat representing Ohio's 11th District. However, she did comment on the race for Portman's seat, telling reporters that she thought Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, both Democrats, were strong choices for the Senate seat.
Ryan has since announced his candidacy for Portman's seat, while Whaley jumped into the race for Ohio governor.
With her answers, Fudge was in violation of the Hatch Act, said the federal office. The act limits the political activities of all federal civilian branch employees and prohibits them from "using their official titles or positions while engaged in political activity," including "any activity directed at the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group."
OSC, in a letter dated Thursday to Americans for Public Trust, the conservative watchdog group that had filed the complaint against Fudge, agreed she violated the federal law and said she was issued a warning.
"By stating, for example, that 'we have a good shot at it' and 'I believe we can win the Senate race,' Secretary Fudge showed support for the Democratic Party with respect to the Ohio Senate race while speaking in her official capacity," the chief of OSC's Hatch Act Unit, Ana Galindo-Marrone, wrote in the letter. "Accordingly, OSC has concluded that she violated the Hatch Act during her official appearance at the March 18 press briefing."
After the March briefing, Fudge acknowledged she should not have answered the question, and the OSC official said that since she "expressed remorse," the decision was made to close the case with a warning.
Fudge has also been counseled by HUD ethics officials about the Hatch Act.
"Please note that Secretary Fudge has been advised that if in the future she engages in prohibited political activity we will consider such activity to be a willful and knowing violation of the law that could result in further action," Galindo-Marrone said.
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