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HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge violated Hatch Act, government watchdog finds

The Hatch Act says employees of the executive branch of government cannot take part in partisan political activities while in their official roles.

The video above, explaining the Hatch Act, was first published in August 2020

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge has been found in violation of the Hatch Act by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. It has issued a warning to the former Ohio congresswoman.

The Hatch Act says employees of the executive branch of government cannot take part in partisan political activities while in their official roles. The only exemptions to this are for the president and vice president.

The independent federal investigative agency found Fudge violated the act when she spoke of the possibility of Democrats winning a Senate seat in Ohio in the 2022 midterms. She made the comments while serving in her official role as HUD Secretary during a White House press briefing March 18.

A reporter asked Fudge which Democrat should run for the open seat.

"Well, I have two friends that are thinking about it. Tim Ryan (U.S. Congressman from Ohio), of course, is thinking about it. I understand that Nan Whaley (Dayton, Ohio, mayor) is thinking about it. I mean, I think we’re going to put a good person in that race, no matter who we choose. But they’re both friends. I think we have a good shot at it. I know people have written off Ohio. I haven’t written off Ohio. I believe we can win the Senate race," Fudge said, according to a letter by the OSC.

Politico, which was first to report the decision, said Fudge's comments led to a conservative group called Americans for Public Trust to file a complaint against Fudge.

The secretary put out a statement the day after the briefing, saying she should not have answered the question. "I take these things seriously and I want to assure the American people that I am focused on meeting the needs of our country," she wrote.

Several members of the Trump administration were accused of violating the Hatch Act, including members of former President Donald Trump's cabinet who campaigned for Trump at the Republican National Convention in 2020. 

The Office of Special Counsel recommended in 2019 that former White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway be fired for being a "repeat offender" of the Hatch Act by disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during television interviews and on social media. Trump declined to fire her, saying she had a right to free speech.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.