Skirting good ethics and the law of the land, White House Cabinet officials are touring the nation on behalf of President Obama’s campaign fundraising machine, which has already taken in more cash than all the Republican presidential candidates combined and nearly three times as much as the president’s richest competitor, Mitt Romney.
The Hatch Act is supposed to keep government employees from doing this sort of thing, but, as with all rules to come out of Washington, there are loopholes aplenty. As one of the chief enforcers of the Hatch Act tells the Los Angeles Times, “This is a gray area.”
Still, the Times, speaking with people who have attended events featuring Cabinet officials, reports that the Obama campaign is playing with fire. Officials are not supposed to use their titles, appearing as everyday folk, and “the speakers are not supposed to discuss their agency’s specific work.”
Examples from the Times:
When [Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa] Jackson spoke at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco recently, for example, she fielded questions about the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline project that environmentalists oppose, according to a donor who attended the event. Jackson talked about the EPA’s role in reviewing how the pipeline would affect the environment, the donor said.
[Education Secretary Arne] Duncan mentioned the Education Department’s Race to the Top initiative and talked about the administration’s education priorities, said one person who saw him speak.
Among the questions posed to [Senior White House advisor Valerie] Jarrett were one from a hospital executive about Obama’s healthcare plan and another from a high-tech executive about U.S. trade policy, according to a person who was at that event.
White House / Lawrence Jackson