By DEB RIECHMANN
WASHINGTON (AP) — Six former and current White House staffers were reprimanded Friday for posting political tweets, such as the campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” and “MAGA,” on Twitter accounts they use for government business.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel sent warning letters to the six warning them that their tweets violated the Hatch Act, which restricts political activities of federal employees working in the executive branch.
The special counsel’s office reviewed the tweets after receiving complaints from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group that works to ensure that public officials work on behalf of all taxpayers. The special counsel’s office sent a five-page summary of its findings to CREW on Friday.
It said former principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah violated the Hatch Act when he used his official “@RajShah45” Twitter account in June 2018 to post a message that linked to a Republican National Committee website.
“Fantastic @RNCResearch release #Winning: 500 Days of American Greatness.” In his tweet, he included a link to an RNC webpage that outlined RNC research on what Trump accomplished in his first 500 days in office.
Alyssa Farah, press secretary for Vice President Mike Pence, violated the Hatch Act when she used her official “@VPPressSec” Twitter account to post two messages that included “#MAGA.” One in May 2018 said: “This is what #MAGA looks like: Under @POTUS TRUMP, the unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in 17 years.”
MAGA is short for Make America Great Again.
The four others cited for violations were: Madeleine Westerhout, executive assistant to the president; Jacob Wood, deputy communications director of the Office of Management and Budget; Jessica Ditto, White House deputy director of communications; and Helen Aguirre Ferre, former special assistant to the president and director of media affairs.
This isn’t the first time that Trump administration officials have run afoul of the Hatch Act. The 1939 law allows government officials to personally donate money to political committees or engage in a variety of partisan activities, so long as they do so during their personal time and don’t use government resources.
Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was reprimanded for violating the law by voicing support for a South Carolina congressional candidate. She had retweeted a Trump tweet supporting Republican Ralph Norman, who went on to win a special election for the seat formerly occupied by Trump budget director Mick Mulvaney.
White House social media director Dan Scavino was issued a warning for using an official-looking Twitter account to call for a Michigan congressman’s defeat. CREW filed a complaint in that case too, and Scavino was warned if he engages in such activity in the future, the office will consider it a “willful and knowing violation of the law.”