H/T The Hill
A press release today from the Office of the Special Counsel says that "(HHS) Secretary Sebelius violated the Hatch Act when she made extemporaneous partisan remarks in a speech delivered in her official capacity on February 25, 2012."
Clearly Sebelius knew she had crossed a line: "After the event, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reclassified the trip from official to political and issued a statement to that effect. Secretary Sebelius and HHS reimbursed the U.S. Treasury for all costs and expenses associated with her travel to the event."
The facts of the case note that Sebelius' briefing memo suggested that she answer questions about her personal opinions by stating "“I’m here to represent the President and the Obama Administration, not in my personal capacity.” Furthermore, her speech was loaded into a teleprompter. Nevertheless, she went "off script", much as her boss often does, and with no more positive impact than her boss usually has.
Her off-script addition was as follows:
This Administration is committed to keep working with you but I have to tell you, we have just begun, and a lot of what I have just explained could be wiped out in a heartbeat. So as Joe just said, one of the imperatives is to make sure that we not only come together here in Charlotte to present the nomination to the President, but we make sure that in November he continues to be President for another four years because this effort has just begun. I know there is an important election in early May here in North Carolina and I think that it’s a great template to do what needs to be done to organize people and turn out people for November. North Carolina is hugely important in this next election, it’s hugely important to defeat Amendment One on the ballot in May and it’s hugely important to make sure that we reelect the President and elect a Democratic governor here in North Carolina . . . . (emphasis added).
Asked about it later, Sebelius said "“I . . . regret the fact that I clearly made a mistake. I was not intending to use an official capacity to do a political event. I think it veered into political space at an official event and I regret that it occurred.”
Believe it or not, I take her at her word on this.
In her response to the full report, Secretary Sebelius apologized for her actions and suggested that since the DNC reimbursed the Treasure for her travel costs, she should not have been found to have violated any rule or law.
The OSC noted that the reimbursement issue is separate, and that Sebelius was well aware of Hatch Act limitations on her speech when she was speaking in an official capacity, and further that her comments "would have been permissible if they had been made in her personal capacity."
The full report and Sebelius' response were sent to the president, where they will immediately be deposited in a circular file. After all, what Sebelius did, and apologized for, is nothing compared to what Joe Biden does unapologetically every single day.
All in all, I don't think this is major news, and I don't think you'll hear the media cover it -- though they would if the offender had been a Republican, and that's what troubles me most in these cases.
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