(AP/Zach Gibson)

Spokesperson denies Ben Carson violated the Hatch Act

When Carson was announced by his cabinet title at Trump's campaign rally this week, it likely broke a federal law


Charlie May
August 24, 2017 9:25PM (UTC)

At President Donald Trump's Tuesday night rally in Phoenix, Arizona, a federal law may have been broken when Ben Carson, the secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), was introduced by his cabinet title prior to taking stage, according to the Washington Post.

"The secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. Ben Carson," the announcer said before Carson took the stage. Some legal experts believe that this was a violation of the Hatch Act.

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The purpose of the Hatch Act is to "prevent government employees from using their position and their station to promote candidates or political parties," Larry Noble, senior director of the Campaign Legal Center, told the Post. "The idea is that the government, once it’s in government, is supposed to be nonpartisan. It’s really to prevent the abuse of power."

Hence, giving the appearance that a government official is promoting a candidate while on the job is illegal under the Hatch Act.

The Washington Post reported that, legally, the rally constituted a campaign rally for Trump's 2020 reelection bid. "In order to avoid criticism for the cost and tone of the events, the bills have been paid by a reelection campaign organization that was formed back in January," the Post reported. Because of this, Carson should not have been announced by his cabinet title.

Hatch Act violations are nothing new for the Trump administration. Dan Scavino, the president's social media director, violated the same law when he called for the defeat of a Republican politician on Twitter. He was let off with only a warning.

The previous HUD secretary under Obama, Julián Castro, also violated the law when "he indicated during a news interview conducted in the department’s offices that he endorsed Hillary Clinton," the Post reported.

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In the case of Ben Carson, a spokesperson denied that a law was violated, and told the Post that Carson "did not hear his name before he was cued to go on."

"We don’t believe there was a Hatch Act violation. Dr. Carson’s travel and lodging were not paid for by the Department. Dr. Carson was there in his personal capacity. Additionally, he did not discuss HUD during his speech," HUD spokesman Raffi Williams wrote in an email to the Post.

"We are unaware of what instructions, if any, were provided to the announcer. All other references during the event refer to him as Dr. Carson. In this instance he did not hear his name before he was cued to go on. We are consulting with our Ethics Office on the matter to ensure it doesn’t occur again," the statement continued.


Charlie May

Charlie May is a news writer at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @charliejmay

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