WASHINGTON — White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain violated the Hatch Act and was warned not to do so again, according to a document obtained by The Post.
The Justice Department’s Office of Special Counsel said in a letter dated Wednesday that Klain, a prolific Twitter user, ran afoul of the law restricting the political activities of certain officials by retweeting a message urging people to purchase “Democrats Deliver” merchandise.
Ana Galindo-Marrone, chief of the Hatch Act Unit at the OSC, described the official assessment of Klain’s infraction in a letter to the America First Legal Foundation, a pro-Donald Trump group that filed a complaint against Klain.
“Although OSC has concluded that Mr. Klain violated the Hatch Act, as explained below, we have decided not to pursue disciplinary action and instead issued him a warning letter,” Galindo-Marrone wrote.
Hatch Act violations generally attract unwanted negative attention and White House spokespeople frequently cite the law and a desire to avoid a wrist-slap for avoiding certain questions — especially after then-press secretary Jen Psaki received a reprimand last year.
Galindo-Marrone wrote to the America First Legal Foundation that “OSC confirmed that Mr. Klain retweeted a May 22, 2022 message from Strike PAC (@StrikePAC) from his official Twitter account (@WHCOS). The tweet read, ‘Operation Fly Formula delivers 70,000 pounds of infant formula for American mothers and their infants. Thank you @POTUS.’ The tweet also read, ‘Get your Democrats Deliver merch today!’ and included a link to Strike PAC’s online store and an image of the group’s ‘Democrats Deliver’ tshirt.”
Strike PAC “is a partisan political group, and according to its website, it ‘supports
campaign finance reform and will help elect Democrats who support these vital policies.’ It also has a ‘nationalized strategy’ aimed at promoting the Democratic Party by ‘tell[ing] stories of how Democrats deliver on their promises to improve the lives of voters,’” the OSC letter notes.
“In this vein, Strike PAC’s message thanking President Biden served to further the group’s nationalized strategy of promoting Democrats as the party that delivers on its promises to voters. By retweeting this message, Mr. Klain used his official Twitter account to promote a partisan political group’s interests and, therefore, OSC has concluded that he violated the Hatch Act’s use of official authority prohibition.
Galindo-Marrone continued, “In addition, Strike PAC’s tweet constituted a solicitation for political contributions because it encouraged others to buy the group’s merchandise. A political contribution is defined as any gift, subscription, loan, advance, or deposit of money or anything of value, made for any political purpose (i.e., to promote or oppose a partisan political group). The sale of Strike PAC’s merchandise supports the group’s objective of electing Democrats, and so the purchase price is a political contribution for purposes of the Hatch Act. Thus, Strike PAC’s tweet solicited political contributions, and because Mr. Klain retweeted this message, he also violated the Hatch Act’s solicitation prohibition.”
Klain is one of the Biden administration’s top Twitter users, often using the platform to amplify the opinions of Biden allies and positive news developments.
Although he was found to have violated the Hatch Act, the OSC letter said “we understand that he promptly removed the retweet upon being notified of this complaint. Accordingly, we have decided not to pursue disciplinary action and will close this matter.”
“Mr. Klain has been warned that if in the future he engages in activity prohibited by the Hatch Act while employed in a covered position, OSC would consider such activity to be a willful and knowing violation of the law that could result in disciplinary action,” she concluded.
The White House did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.