Press Release: Cause of Action Exposes Negligence and New Hatch Act Concerns at Office of Special Counsel


Cause of Action Exposes Negligence and New Hatch Act Concerns at Office of Special Counsel

Board Designated with Investigating Hatch Act Violations is Rife with Problems

 WASHINGTON – Cause of Action (CoA), a government accountability organization, sent a letter to Chairman Darrell Issa of the House Oversight Committee on Monday outlining new discoveries about Hatch Act violations and internal problems at the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) that warrant investigation.

The letter follows an OSC complaint filed on January 29, 2012 by Cause of Action requesting an investigation into AJ Pearlman, an aide to Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who committed a Hatch Act violation while accompanying the Secretary during a February 2012 trip. Cause of Action filed the complaint in concert with a complaint to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) concerning the Democratic National Committee’s reimbursement to the government for Secretary Sebelius’s political activity.

What Cause of Action is now revealing is a breakdown of accountability at the OSC on multiple levels:

  • OSC’s Investigation into HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Failed to Disclose a Potential Hatch Act Violation by Sebelius’s Aide AJ Pearlman
  • OSC Did Not Consider that Secretary Sebelius and Her Staff’s Support of Senator Sherrod Brown may Raise Hatch Act Concerns
  • OSC Failed to Investigate Potential Hatch Act Violations Arising from an Event at The White House Sponsored by the Democratic National Committee (DNC)
  • OSC Has Launched a Hatch Act Investigation into Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar, but Will they Conclude that Investigation Before He Leaves Office in March 2013?
  • OSC Lacks Clear Guidelines for Appropriate Disciplinary Action against Federal Employees that Violate the Hatch Act
  • OSC’s Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner Used a Non-government E-mail Account to Conduct Agency Business

Executive Director of Cause of Action Dan Epstein explained the consequences of Cause of Action’s findings:

“The Office of Special Counsel exists, in part, to hold federal government employees to the standards of the law, yet we have found a breakdown of responsibility, ethics, and duty within their own agency.  As the primary Congressional body with jurisdiction over OSC, we are presenting our findings to the House Oversight Committee for their review.  Taxpayer dollars are funding an agency who is failing to execute its duties, and we intend to hold them accountable. The ripple effects of their failures mean that numerous agency employees are potentially getting away with breaking the law.”

The letter and the exhibits can be found here.


To schedule an interview with Cause of Action’s Communications Director Mary Beth Hutchins, contact Jamie Morris,


CoA Letter to Issa on OSC issues

Letter to Issa

Issa Letter Exhibits

Washington Examiner: Complaint: Sebelius’ illegal campaign trip for Obama worse than we thought

Read the full story here. Washington Examiner

“Not only is it that the DNC is not being transparent about what it’s using its funds for reimbursement of, but it’s also violating the intent and letter of the Federal Elections Campaign Act,” Cause of Action’s Dan Epstein said in a phone interview with The Washington Examiner. “Whether it’s to cover up the Hatch Act violation or to just not properly report it, it’s very clear that it’s not properly reported — [for] the reason why, one would have to look into the minds of the lawyers at the DNC.”

Epstein floated the idea that the DNC reimbursed HHS (rather than the Treasury Department) and classified it as travel, rather than as a reimbursement for an independent expenditure in order to avoid the appearance that the Treasury Department had effectively loaned money to the Obama campaign for the trip (which would be another violation of federal law, he said).

Cause of Action also noted another wrinkle: HHS’ reclassification of the trip as a campaign trip means that A.J. Pearlman, the adviser who traveled to the event with Sebelius, also violated the Hatch Act.

“That assistant’s participation in the event in North Carolina would in fact be a Hatch Act violation,” Cause of Action said in another complaint to the Office of Special Counsel.

Cause of Action blamed Obama and Sebelius for compromising Pearlman. “The consequence here is that A.J. Pearlman is thrown under the bus by Sebelius. Sebelius asked the DNC to reimburse HHS for A.J. Pearlman’s activities, which basically [means] A.J. Pearlman violated the Hatch Act, which means A.J. Pearlman needs to be disciplined, most likely fired,” Epstein explained. “Even though she didn’t intend to engage in any political activity, she was just doing what she was told.”

An OSC spokesperson said it could not comment on the Hatch Act complaint, due to privacy laws.


The Colorado Observer: Watchdog Group: Salazar May Have Violated the Hatch Act

Read the full story here. Colorado Observer  

“Cause of Action, a Washington-based firm, said it asked to the Office of Special Counsel to evaluate Salazar’s activities and statements at a campaign event sponsored by the Montrose County Democratic Party on Oct. 5. Noting that Salazar reportedly told the participants the importance of re-electing President Obama, executive director Dan Epstein said the independent government agency should investigate the episode.

“(I)t appears Sec. Ken Salazar violated the Hatch Act in using his official capacity to campaign for the President. His behavior warrants attention and investigation by the OSC, as no violator of the Hatch Act should get away with such behavior,” Epstein said in a statement Wednesday…”

Hatch Act Violations and the Ethics Question

Last week, Cause of Action filed a formal complaint with the Office of Special Counsel regarding remarks by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar during several political rallies in the swing state of Colorado. A CoA investigation determined that Sec. Salazar, was potentially violating the Hatch Act of 1939—a law designed to keep government employees from using their title and position to influence the outcome of elections.

The potential violations from Salazar come only months after another CoA investigation revealed similar circumstances at the FAA, as well as a formal finding from the OSC that Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius was in violation of the Hatch Act.

The fact that so many Executive Branch employees are violating the Hatch Act must mean that something is awry.  Why does the President continue to ignore the laws that have been put in place to protect the integrity of the election system? Clearly, it is in the President’s best interest to allow his cabinet members to campaign on his behalf without recourse, but that certainly doesn’t mean it is legal.

Regardless of incentive or motivation, the President’s choices about the ethical and legal ramifications for members of his administration speak volumes. If he is unable to demonstrate integrity regarding proper punishment for law-breakers in the Executive Branch, then can he be trusted to uphold other laws?

At Cause of Action we are committed to continuing our fight for an open, honest, transparent government, and we strive to ensure that the American people get just that.

Cause of Action Memo on Sec. Sebelius’ Hatch Act Violations

120914 Cause of Action Memo on Sebelius Hatch Act Violations

CoA Calls On Pres. Obama to Fire HHS Sec. Kathleen Sebelius

The Office of Special Counsel reported findings today that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius violated the Hatch Act in February when she called for re-electing President Obama during an official department appearance. Cause of Action is calling on President Obama to fire Kathleen Sebelius for this clear violation of federal law.

Statement from Cause of Action Executive Director Dan Epstein:

“This is the most high profile example of a Hatch Act violation since the Act was passed in 1939.   Never before has a member of the President’s Cabinet been found to have committed a Hatch Act violation.  President Obama should immediately fire HHS Secretary Sebelius for her violation of federal law. Additionally, the Justice Department should begin an investigation into any potential election crimes the Secretary may have committed through her then-taxpayer funded comments on February 25, 2012. The American public deserves a President committed to the law and committed to a Cabinet that understands the difference between politics and public service.”