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The lawlessness of a 'law and order' administration

The lawlessness of a 'law and order' administration
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It is outrageous that an administration that emphasizes “law and order” so blatantly disregards federal laws with which it may not agree or for which compliance is inconvenient or not helpful to its political objectives.   

This shameless contempt for the law and the norms of a democratic society is an insult to the American people, the military and the hundreds of thousands of current and former federal employees. Taxpayers should be incensed that their tax dollars are being used to support partisan actions such as seeking the reelection of an incumbent president.

The Hatch Act restricts federal employees from taking part in partisan political activity. Partisan political activity is that which is directed toward the success or failure of a partisan candidate, political party or partisan political group. Only the president and vice president are exempt from the law.

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It is a very simple law. Federal employees may not use their official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election. They may not use official titles while participating in political activities. They may not use their authority to coerce another person to participate in a political activity, or solicit, accept or receive uncompensated volunteer services from a subordinate for any political purpose.

Federal employees, including presidential appointees, may not engage in any partisan political activity on official time — period. This includes use of government facilities, including email and computer systems, wearing a government uniform or using a government vehicle. They are prohibited from such activity on duty even if using a personal device such as a personal cell phone or a personal email or other account such as Twitter. Yet, the Republican National Convention contained a steady stream of such violations, from misuse of the Mellon Auditorium and the White House for political purposes to Secretary of State Pompeo’s speech broadcast from Jerusalem (reportedly against the advice of his legal adviser).  

This is not a Republican or Democrat issue. It is a matter of following the rule of law and demanding integrity and lawful conduct from our public employees and officials at every level of the federal government.

I have been an attorney working on federal ethics matters for nearly 30 years. My experience ranged from active duty service as a judge advocate with the Air Force to handling ethics issues in the executive office of the president during the last two years of the George W. Bush administration, and to serving at the Pentagon in many different roles (military and civilian) as an ethics adviser and ethics official for the Department of Defense and Department of the Air Force.  

This is just not right. I and so many of my federal government colleagues, uniformed and civilian, all worked hard to follow the rules in service to our nation. We should publicly call out this lawlessness that strikes at the heart of public service and demeans the hundreds of thousands of federal employees and military members, past and present, who work hard every single day to meet their legal and ethical responsibilities.

F. Andrew (“Andy”) Turley is counsel to Fluet Huber + Hoang, a law firm in McLean, VA, following a long military and civilian career with the federal government. He is a retired Air Force major general and retired senior executive service member. He has served as general counsel for two federal agencies and principal or alternate designated agency ethics official for three federal agencies.