On the 18th of April, according to Reuters, Xavier Becerra, the Health and Human Services Secretary, has been accused of violating the Hatch Act. This accusation stems from an incident that occurred at a public event last year, where Becerra expressed his support for Democratic Senator Alex Padilla’s re-election. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel report stated that Becerra’s comments, made at a Congressional Hispanic Caucus dinner in September, mixed his personal electoral preference with official remarks. The report went on to say that by doing so, he violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from using their official capacity to affect or interfere with elections.
Becerra, who is President Joe Biden’s top health official, acknowledged his comments but stated that they were unintentional. In a statement included in the report, he said, “While I did not realize at the time that my off-the-cuff remarks concerning my personal voting intentions were in violation of the Hatch Act, I now understand why they were not permitted.” The Hatch Act allows for some political activities by federal employees, but it does not permit the use of official capacity to interfere with elections.
The report has been sent to President Biden for “appropriate action.” Representatives for the White House were not immediately available for comment. It is worth noting that the Office of the Special Counsel, an independent agency, can make recommendations but does not have the authority to enforce them. In the past, the agency has cited top administration officials for violations under former Republican President Donald Trump and called for the removal of one official, Kellyanne Conway.
Overall, the incident involving Xavier Becerra has raised questions about the boundaries between personal and professional conduct for federal employees, particularly in regards to political activities. The Hatch Act is in place to ensure that federal employees do not use their official capacity to sway elections, and it is important for all employees to understand the implications of their actions.