Friday, March 30, 2007

UPDATED answer -- for firedoglake folks. . .

okay -- the law is commonly referred to as
the hatch act. violations of the hatch
act are federal crimes. generally, the
law establishes a "congressional policy
that employees should be encouraged to
exercise fully, freely, and without fear
of penalty or reprisal, and to the extent
not expressly prohibited by law, the right
to participate or to refrain from participating
in the nation's political processes. . ."

in the case of the united states attorney's office,
any employee considered "career" (not appointed
directly by the president, with the consent of the
congress) -- i.e. ms. goodling, mr. sampson, and
everyone who worked at that level, or for them,
would be covered. . . so far, so good.

the rub? -- the hatch act amendments of 1993 also
proscribe most political activities by covered employees
while "on the clock" for the taxpayers of the united states:

. . .The law prohibits employees from engaging in
political activity (1) while on duty; (2) in any
room or building occupied in the discharge of
official duties by an employee or officeholder
of the U.S. government or any agency or in-
strumentality thereof. . . The Senate Committee
on Governmental Affairs report accompanying
the legislation states that "politics on
the job, including the wearing of political
buttons, is prohibited
. . ."

Permitted/Prohibited Activities for Employees Who May Not Participate in Partisan Political Activity

These federal employees may-

  • register and vote as they choose

  • assist in voter registration drives

  • express opinions about candidates and issues

  • participate in campaigns where none of the candidates represent a political party

  • contribute money to political organizations or attend political fund raising functions

  • attend political rallies and meetings

  • join political clubs or parties

  • sign nominating petitions

  • campaign for or against referendum questions, constitutional amendments, municipal ordinances

These federal employees may not-

  • be candidates for public office in partisan elections

  • campaign for or against a candidate or slate of candidates in partisan elections

  • make campaign speeches

  • collect contributions or sell tickets to political fund raising functions

  • distribute campaign material in partisan elections

  • organize or manage political rallies or meetings

  • hold office in political clubs or parties

  • circulate nominating petitions

  • work to register voters for one party only

  • wear political buttons at work

so -- if ms. goodling (and this is a BIG if),
asked anyone -- while at work -- about party
affiliation, or partisan politics -- she could
very easily have commited a criminal violation
of the hatch act, and thus have cause to assert
her fifth amendment rights, in response to a
subpoena from the senate judiciary committee.

there are many other possibilities, but this
one leaps out at me because of the laser-like
questioning of mr. sampson yesterday. does a
ranking member of the judiciary committee have
solid evidence (an email, or sworn statment) that
people were asked about party affiliation while
in the office, on a work-day? i dunno. but if
so. . . this law spells t-r-o-u-b-l-e. in full:

Title 5 USC § 7323. Political activity authorized; prohibitions

(b). . .

(3) No employee of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice (except one appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate), may take an active part in political management or political campaigns.

(4) For purposes of this subsection, the term “active part in political management or in a political campaign” means those acts of political management or political campaigning which were prohibited for employees of the competitive service before July 19, 1940, by determinations of the Civil Service Commission under the rules prescribed by the President. . .


this may be what sen. chuck schumer was
driving at when he asked pointed questions
about DoJ staffers asking party affiliation
questions of assistant u.s. attorneys. . .

that would be prohibited by federal law.

is it possible that ms. goodling ran
afoul of this provision?

who knows? -- kyle sampson said he wasn't
aware of anything of this sort around him. . .

but his supposedly-averred "awareness" levels
seem entirely implausibly, off-the-charts, way-low. . .

he claimed not to pay much attention to which
names went on, or came off the termination list, or why. . .

and he was in charge of it.

riiiiight. . .

yet, he clearly remembered small conversations
about hallway matters with the attorney general
on projects he was not supervising. . .


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