Top Trump administration figures flout law banning partisan campaigning

Top Trump administration figures flout law banning partisan campaigning

On 24 August, Donald Trump’s agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue, traveled to the battleground state of North Carolina for an official departmental event for food producers hurt by the pandemic. But Perdue’s speech to attendees also featured a campaign pep talk for Trump, who was there too.

At one point Perdue led a chant of “four more years” and called Trump a champion of “forgotten people”.

Perdue’s blurring of the lines between hosting an official Department of Agriculture meeting and a Trump rally, sparked a complaint to the federal Office of Special Counsel by the non-partisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (Crew) that charged he violated the Hatch Act, a 1939 law that bars most federal officials from using their government posts to engage in various kinds of political activity.

In a stinging rebuke to Perdue, OSC on 8 October ruled that he had violated the Hatch Act and ordered him to reimburse taxpayers for his travel and other expenses linked to the event.

But Perdue is hardly an isolated example of top Trump officials mixing their work with political activities that critics and watchdog groups say is a worrying breach of laws and regulations designed to stem corruption and keep America’s machinery of state free from political interference.