As a former Federal employee (Budget Examiner) for the United States Bureau of the Budget, I know a little bit about the Hatch Act.
It was the statute that forced me to resign my Civil Service job in the Executive Office of the President before I announced at age 23 that I was running for the Republican Party nomination for McHenry County Treasurer.
The way I understood it then, those under the Hatch Act could not be active in partisan politics while one was under that statute’s jurisdiction.
Either I had a misunderstanding of the Act then or it has been loosened a lot since 1966, because those under the Act can now even run for Delegate to a National Political Convention, campaign actively, even give a speech at a political fund raiser.
The generalization stated on the web page is “most federal and D.C. government employees may take an active part in partisan political management and campaigns.”
But, there are a couple of prohibited activities. A person under the Hatch Act
- may not use official authority or influence to interfere with an election;
- may not solicit or discourage political activity of anyone with business before her agency;
- may not engage in political activity while on duty, in a government office, while wearing an official uniform or while using a government vehicle;
- may not solicit, accept or receive political contributions;
- may not become a candidate in a partisan election.
To find out who might be under the Hatch Act today for non-Federal employees, I went to the web site of the Office of Special Counsel of the U.S. Justice Department and found a section on the Hatch Act.
I went to the section entitled, “About The Hatch Act State and Local Employees.”
Here’s how the section starts:
“The Hatch Act restricts the political activity of individuals principally employed by state or local executive agencies and who work in connection with programs financed in whole or in part by federal loans or grants.”
“The following list offers examples of the types of programs which frequently receive financial assistance from the federal government: public health, public welfare, housing, urban renewal and area redevelopment, employment security, labor and industry training, public works, conservation, agricultural, civil defense, transportation, anti-poverty, and law enforcement programs“[emphasis added].”
The final paragraph reads, “State and local employees subject to the Hatch Act continue to be covered while on annual leave, sick leave, leave without pay, administrative leave or furlough.”
Take a look at what the first part of 5 US Code Section 1502 – Influencing elections; taking part in political campaigns; prohibitions; exceptions says:
(a) A State or local officer or employee may not—
- use his official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election or a nomination for office;
- directly or indirectly coerce, attempt to coerce, command, or advise a State or local officer or employee to pay, lend, or contribute anything of value to a party, committee, organization, agency, or person for political purposes; or
- be a candidate for elective office.
Could it be possible that this part of Federal statutes applies to some folks in McHenry County?
County government, does, of course, get federal money both directly.
Think, for instance, the money from Immigration and Customs Enforcement that flows in large amounts to the County Jail for housing undocumented aliens, and indirectly through State government pass-throughs.
So, one might think that whoever has charge of the County Jail would be under the Hatch Act.
Ultimately, that would be Sheriff Keith Nygren himself.
So when the Hatch Act says a “local officer” under its jurisdiction
“may not use his official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election or a nomination for office”
does that mean Sheriff Nygren can’t endorse his Undersheriff Andrew Zinke for Sheriff as he so publicly did in the Northwest Herald?
And does Zinke have control of the Jail where an entire floor is dedicated to housing ICE detainees?
From an April 28, 2012, YouTube, the summary of which you can see below, it appears that might be the case.
In the May 7, 2012, minutes of the County Board’s Law and Justice Committee, Zinke is listed along with Angela Wood-Zuzevich as representing the Sheriff’s Department.
The Sheriff’s Department also administers other Federal grant money, e.g., for child passenger seats, State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), and Sustained Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP).