FAA officials accused of pressuring staff to vote for Obama

A government accountability group is accusing supervisors at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of urging the agency's employees to vote for President Obama and other Democrats in November.

The Washington, D.C.-based Cause of Action, which identifies itself as nonpartisan, said Wednesday that FAA officials at a Seattle office told employees that the agency’s funding would be more secure if Obama defeats Mitt Romney to win a second term.

The allegation, if true, would be a violation of the Hatch Act, a federal law that prohibits government agencies from getting involved in partisan activities.

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Cause of Action Executive Director Daniel Epstein said in a letter to Department of Transportation Inspector General Calvin Scovel that he should investigate the allegations of political pressure being applied to FAA workers.

“We write respectfully to request that the Office of Inspector General (OIG) initiate an investigation into Deputy Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety John Hickey and Deputy Director of Flight Standards Field Operations Ray Towles,” Epstein wrote. “We have been informed that during mandatory meetings of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employees, Mr. Hickey and Mr. Towles encouraged employees to vote for Democratic politicians in upcoming elections, explaining their jobs may very well depend on a Democratic victory.”

Epstein said the alleged incident took place in May at the FAA’s Seattle Flight Standards Division Office. He said the Cause for Action group was notified about the appeals to FAA workers to vote Democratic by employees at a meeting Hickey and Towles conducted.

“At least two Seattle FSDO employees present for Mr. Hickey and Mr. Towles’ comments felt they were so inappropriate as to necessitate reporting to their supervisor, who in turn reported their allegations as possible Hatch Act violations to an attorney and deputy regional counsel in the FAA’s Northwest Mountain Region Office of the Regional Counsel,” Epstein wrote.

“Additionally, a source has informed Cause of Action that the office of special counsel is conducting an investigation into Mr. Hickey and Mr. Towles and their comments to the Seattle FSDO,” he continued.

A spokesperson for the FAA told The Hill that the agency "takes Hatch Act violation allegations very seriously and will cooperate fully with any review of the allegations."

The full Cause of Action letter can be read here.

— This story was updated at 5:53 p.m. with comment from the FAA.