Betsy DeVos Faces Potential Investigation for Alleged Hatch Act Violation

Betsy DeVos Faces Potential Investigation for Alleged Hatch Act Violation
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos participates in an event at the White House in Washington, on July 7, 2020. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Bill Pan

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is facing investigation for potentially violating the Hatch Act after her department promoted a Fox News interview, in which she criticized Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) reportedly started the investigation after Checks and Balances Project, a government watchdog group, filed a complaint against DeVos earlier this month. The complaint alleged that DeVos used her official authority to affect the result of an election—a violation of the Hatch Act, which regulates political activities of federal employees.

During a Sept. 1 interview with Fox News, DeVos expressed frustration that Joe Biden, who had defended federal-sponsored school choice programs decades ago, no longer supports the cause and allows teachers' unions to shape his education platform.

"Today he's turned his back on the kids that we're talking about and he's turned his face in favor of the teachers union and what they have to say and what they have to demand and it's really shameful," DeVos told Fox News at that time. A video that includes the interview can be found on the Education Department's official YouTube channel, with the title "Secretary Betsy DeVos: A Letter to America's Parents."
The complaint, obtained by Politico, labeled DeVos' remarks about Biden as a "personal, political attack," arguing that she has turned a policy discussion into a political campaign when the presidential election was less than two months away.

"The premeditated nature and dissemination of the video of Secretary DeVos's political attacks on Joe Biden from the Department of Education and Secretary DeVos's Twitter account shows that this was a coordinated campaign, political attack on Joe Bidden [sic] from Secretary DeVos intended to damage Joe Biden's campaign," the complaint stated.

Angela Morabito, an Education Department spokeswoman, said in a statement that the complaint against DeVos is merely an allegation.

"The Secretary was asked to respond to oft-repeated criticism of her and her policies, and she defended her policies, including discussing the history of that criticism," Morabito said in a statement. "The Hatch Act does not prohibit that kind of exchange with a journalist. Case closed. Of course, we will cooperate with OSC, should they choose to open an investigation of this frivolous complaint."

The OSC said in a statement that, at this time, it can neither comment on nor confirm whether it have "any specific open Hatch Act investigations." It also noted that the findings of investigations are typically only disclosed to the complainant and the subject of the complaint.

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