Watchdog to enforce politicking ban against White House aides

By Kevin Bogardus | 05/20/2024 04:23 PM EDT

Tougher enforcement of the Hatch Act against West Wing officials could be tricky during President Joe Biden’s reelection bid.

Hampton Dellinger

Hampton Dellinger at his nomination hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 28, 2021. Senate Committee on the Judiciary

The federal government’s independent watchdog plans to rev up enforcement barring civil servants from electioneering, including against White House officials, as the 2024 campaign season heats up.

The Office of Special Counsel released a new advisory opinion Monday that updates its approach to the Hatch Act, which limits political activity by federal employees while they’re on the job and in the workplace. The law, passed in 1939, has in practice been directed mostly at career staffers while political appointees may be admonished yet escape harsher punishment.

That may change under Special Counsel Hampton Dellinger’s more stringent take on Hatch Act violations. He said in a statement that millions of federal employees who do not work in the West Wing can face an enforcement action filed by his office before the Merit Systems Protection Board while only Senate-confirmed officials are exempt from the board by law.


“White House employees should be treated like every other government worker,” Dellinger said. “My focus is balancing robust Hatch Act enforcement with careful consideration of government employee speech rights. That’s what Congress and the courts have directed and it’s what OSC will deliver.”