When it comes to exposing law breakers and upbraiding local politicians for alleged ethical violations, Ms. Jo-Ann Armao and The Washington Post have blurred vision. The At-large seat of soon to be Chairman of Council of the District of Columbia, Kwame Brown is now open to all qualified comers. A special election to fill the At-large council seat vacancy will be April 26, 2011.
However, there is a pesky little federal law annoyance which Ms. Armao and The Washington Post chose not to write about. It is called the Hatch Act (5 U.S.C. §§ 7321-7326).
According to the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, the Hatch Act limits the political activities of employees of the District of Columbia. “A covered employee, among other things, may not be a candidate for public office in a partisan election, i.e., an election in which any candidate represents, for example, the Democratic or Republican Party. The prohibition against candidacy extends not merely to the formal filing of a “declaration of candidacy” but also to the preliminary activities regarding candidacy such as obtaining and circulating a nominating petition.”
To the consternation and bemusement of some non-partisan District elected officials, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, in two separate decisions, has determined members to the D.C. State Board of Education and D.C. Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners are covered under the Hatch Act.
Violating any federal law would give most people pause. However, Ms. Armao and The Washington Post, as well as some other local journalists, are not too bothered with candidates for District political office possibly and silently knowingly violating federal law.
Ms. Armao and The Washington Post’s purposeful and designed silence on the Hatch question continue to illuminate their hypocrisy on issues of ethics in public office.
Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, twice, in 2006 and 2010 introduced legislation to modify the Hatch Act. Her latest bill has passed the House of Representative; however, the Senate failed to act. It appears doubtful changes to the Hatch Act will come in time to help certain affected At-large Council hopefuls in upcoming the District’s special elections.
Ms. Armao, The Washington Post, and others may find it noble and cheer Democrat and Republican hopefuls who will or may make an easy and self-serving decision to violate openly a sleeping federal law. However, what is their view of those who looked at the law and decided to obey it? The symbolism of someone seeking a political office while openly violating a federal law should not be minimized or trivialized.
The failure of Ms. Armao and The Washington Post to write on current non-partisan elected officials seeking a partisan District of Columbia elective office in clear violation of the Hatch Act blackens the horizon of ethics and dims the appeal for political sunlight on the part of Ms. Armao and The Washington Post.
The next time Ms. Armao and The Washington Post write an editorial about political and government ethics, they should consider where they stood on the subject of candidates running afoul of the federal Hatch Act. If Ms. Armao and The Washington Post feel the need to urge citizens to demand transparency, openness, and support for the rule of law while a candidate for Council At-large, here is the link to file an official Office of Special Counsel Hatch Act complaint.
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