The Hatch Act: The Challenges of Separating Politics from Policy

Hearing Date: June 21, 2011 12:00 am

Chairman Darrell Issa Hearing Preview Statement

Tuesday’s hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, entitled “The Hatch Act: The Challenges of Separating Politics from Policy,” will focus on the enforcement challenges, costs, and possible legislative solutions to the law designed to prevent federal employees from conducting partisan political activity with federal resources. The committee is concerned that the current version of the Hatch Act – while rightfully barring federal employees from using taxpayer-provided resources to engage in campaign activity – creates a confusing legal framework that frustrates compliance by well-meaning people. Similarly, ambiguities in the Hatch Act might allow partisan activists the statutory cover to violate the spirit of the law and thus defraud the American people.

In short, the Hatch Act is due for more thorough congressional examination and possible reforms. The technological innovations of the last decade have provided tools that make it too easy for federal employees to circumvent the law and engage in prohibited activities. Moreover, the evolving regulatory standards that accompany Hatch Act enforcement and the possibility that compliance with the law might run afoul of other federal statutes — such as federal recordkeeping laws — warrants a fresh approach.

Finally, the committee is presently engaged in an ongoing oversight effort to monitor the Office of Special Counsel and the White House regarding their respective abilities to scrutinize Hatch Act compliance and resolve conflicts in a timely manner that protects taxpayer’s interests. The committee will hear testimony from current and former government officials involved in Hatch Act compliance and enforcement about the law’s statutory deficiencies and potential reforms to guard against the inappropriate merger of partisan political activity and federal policymaking.

Witnesses and testimonies

Name Title Organization Panel Document
Mr. Richard W. Painter Professor of Corporate Law, University of Minnesota Law School Former Associate White House Counsel to President George W. Bush (2005-2007) Document
Mr. Scott A. Coffina Partner, Montgomery, McCracken, Walker & Rhoads, LLP Former Associate White House Counsel to President George W. Bush (2007-2009) Document
Ms. Ana Galindo-Marrone Hatch Act Unit Chief U.S. Office of Special Counsel Document