AP Q&A: Who cares about the Hatch Act?

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President Donald Trump speaks with members of the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md. and then on to Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON – It's an arcane law that people in Washington alternately regard with love, hate or indifference.

The Hatch Act, which restricts partisan political activity by U.S. federal employees, symbolizes the way America differs from authoritarian governments whose civil servants must stay in lockstep with those in power.

The 80-year-old law has been getting a lot of attention lately as lawmakers and legal experts voice concern over the ways President Donald Trump mixes politics and official business, most recently with his decision to use the White House as the backdrop for his acceptance speech Thursday and other events during the Republican National Convention.

There also is concern about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo violating his own department policy by speaking at the convention — and doing it during a taxpayer-funded visit to Jerusalem, a place that's of keen interest to evangelical Christian voters. Ethics experts also have criticized Trump and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf for staging a citizen naturalization event at the White House during the convention.

“This is so obviously, blatantly, insultingly a Hatch Act violation that it’s starting to seem like the Trump administration is going out of its way to find new ways to violate the law,” said Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a private watchdog group that has filed complaints against at least a dozen Trump administration officials.



There’s so much chatter about the Hatch Act that retired Sen. Orrin Hatch tweeted Wednesday, “Friends, I am not in charge of the Hatch Act please stop calling.”