FCC commissioner’s comments about Trump violated Hatch Act, officials say

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, a Republican, violated the Hatch Act when he advocated for President Donald Trump‘s reelection at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) earlier this year, according to government officials.

The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) made the finding after seven Democrats asked for an investigation regarding O’Rielly’s comment that people need to “make sure that President Trump gets reelected” during a panel discussion at CPAC about net neutrality in February.

On Monday, the OSC in a letter said O’Rielly violated the Hatch Act, which bars government employees from using their position to influence elections, and issued him a warning.

The OSC said O’Rielly told them his “answer was meant to relay the point that the only way to retain the current outcome was to maintain the current leaders in government.” He added: “In other words, retaining the current administration is the only sure way to prevent regulatory ping-ponging.”

However, the agency still found that the commissioner violated the Hatch Act.

In the letter, which was published by American Oversight, a watchdog group, the OSC said that O’Rielly advocated for Trump’s reelection “regardless of his explanation” and issued him a warning, but added that any future Hatch Act violations could “result in further action.”

The FCC did not immediately respond to a request for comment by the Daily Dot.

In a separate instance, an FCC lawyer defended commissioners who spoke at CPAC, insisting that they did not violate ethics rules during their appearances that the conference.

Recently the OSC found that Kellyanne Conway, an adviser to Trump, violated the same law in the run-up to the special election in Alabama. Dan Scavino Jr., the White House’s social media director, was also found to have violated the Hatch Act.

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Andrew Wyrich

Andrew Wyrich

Andrew Wyrich is a politics staff writer for the Daily Dot, covering the intersection of politics and the internet. Andrew has written for USA Today, NorthJersey.com, and other newspapers and websites. His work has been recognized by the Society of the Silurians, Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE), and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).