Energy Secretary Granholm violated Hatch Act by encouraging votes for Democrats during interview

The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency

Updated: June 29, 2022 - 8:50am

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Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm violated the Hatch Act during a 2021 Instagram Live interview with "Marie Claire" magazine, according to a report by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.

The federal law bars some federal government employees from using their official authority or influence to impact the results of an election.

During the interview in October 2021, Granholm was asked: "How do we get involved in this moment to make sure we pass these things?"

The interviewer was discussing policies that she said were "of particular interest to women, and for which women had 'marched' in the past, and how Congress is trying to pass legislation to enact some of those policies," according to the report.

Granholm responded:

"The good news is that ... marching and that voting gave Democrats a bare majority, but a majority, in the House in the Senate. And again, I am using Democrats as a substitute for the policies that you believe in, the policies that you would like to see happen. And what I say to people all the time is the most important thing you can do is make your voice heard. Vote! Put people in who agree with you.

"The arguments in D.C. right now wouldn’t be as tough as they are if we had just a couple more, just a couple more senators that agreed with us or just a couple more members of the House. So continue to be out there, continue to elect people. ... And the only way you get policy you want is by putting people in office. By hiring the right people. They work for you. You can hire them; you can fire them. Let’s hire a few more."

According to the office, employees covered by the Hatch Act are prohibited from using their official title or position while participating in political activity, which is defined as "activity directed at the success or failure of a political party, partisan political group, or candidate for partisan political office."

"Thus, federal employees in their official capacity are prohibited from, among other things, promoting the election or defeat of political parties or candidates for partisan political office," reads the June 9 letter on the matter from the office, an independent federal agency.

"She told listeners that they needed to vote for Democrats so that more Democrats would be elected to pass the legislation they wanted," the letter also states.

However, the office concluded that Granholm did not knowingly violate the act, becasuse she "had not received significant training about [its] use of official authority prohibition." As a result, she was received a warning letter.

Since the interview, Granholm has received appropriate training and the office has advised her that any future violations will be considered "willful and knowing violation of the law, which could result in further action."