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Senator Questions Hatch Act Violation at FEC

Federal Election Commission Vice Chairwoman Ann Ravel went to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to testify about undisclosed political money in California, but she ended up answering questions about an FEC employee’s violation of the Hatch Act.  

Shortly before the Senate Rules Committee’s hearing Wednesday morning on campaign finance disclosure problems, the federal Office of Special Counsel announced that an unnamed FEC lawyer had resigned after admitting to Hatch Act violations. The Hatch Act bars federal employees from political activity in the government workplace.  

Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, the Rules panel’s ranking Republican, zeroed in on the resignation following Ravel’s testimony. Ravel attended the hearing not in her capacity as an FEC commissioner, but as the former chairwoman of California’s Fair Political Practices Commission, which last year fined two tax-exempt groups a record $1 million for violating that state’s public disclosure laws. Roberts asked Ravel, one of three Democrats serving at the evenly-divided FEC, whether the anti-Republican views expressed by the agency attorney in question are common at the commission. A Tuesday Special Counsel release described the employee posting “dozens of partisan political tweets, including many soliciting campaign contributions to President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign and other political campaigns, despite Hatch Act restrictions that prohibit FEC and other ‘further restricted’ employees from such activity.”  

Ravel told Roberts she could not “speak on behalf of the FEC,” but added: “I will tell you that the FEC responded very quickly to that issue when it came to the attention of people within the agency.” She said the employee’s activities were “totally inappropriate” and that an internal investigation found them to be isolated.  

Asked by Roberts whether his own name had come up, Ravel assured him: “I have never heard your name mentioned at the FEC.” She added: “I, in my six months at the FEC, have never heard any partisan communications by employees or commissioners.”  

Roberts also questioned former FEC chairman and election lawyer Donald McGahn, a Republican who, like Ravel, was in attendance to testify at the hearing. McGhan said he was “very troubled” by the news of the FEC lawyer’s admitted Hatch Act violation and resignation. But he added that “most of the folks at the FEC play it straight.”

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