What Is the Hatch Act? Kellyanne Conway Broke Federal Law and Jared Kushner May Have, Too

Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel announced on Tuesday. But what does the federal law do?

Related: Trump 2020 Campaign Prompts Ethics Update After Jared Kushner Already Accused of Violating Law

Passed in 1939, the act limits federal employees from engaging in certain political activities. The act’s main provision bars executive branch employees except the president, vice president and certain high-level officials, from using their offices to influence elections.

“While commissioned officers may engage in some political activity, they are still barred from using their official authority or influence to interfere with or affect elections,” the office stated in its press release on Conway’s violations. “Although the President and Vice President are exempt from the Hatch Act, their employees are not.”

The release also states that the act allows federal workers to express their views about politics and candidates as private citizens, but restricts them from using their official government roles for partisan political purposes including elections.

“In passing this law, Congress intended to promote public confidence in the Executive branch by ensuring the federal government is working for all Americans without regard to their political views,” the office states.

The office’s investigative report on Conway, which concluded that she violated the act twice, was sent to President Donald Trump for appropriate disciplinary action. In the first instance, on November 20, Conway appeared in her official capacity on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.” Conway dismissed then-Alabama Senate candidate Doug Jones, a Democrat, while giving an implied endorsement to his Republican opponent, Roy Moore.

Strike two for Conway occurred on December 6, when she appeared on CNN’s “New Day” show, and asked voters to support Moore over Jones.

Conway is not the first Trump administration member to come under scrutiny around the act.

The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the office last week pointing to what appeared to be a Hatch Act violation involving Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner.

It concerned a Trump campaign announcement naming Brad Parscale as the campaign manager for the president’s 2020 re-election committee, with a quote from Kushner and his title stated as “assistant to the president.” The campaign later in the day revised Kushner’s title to “President Trump’s son-in-law.”

Penalties for violating the act range from a reprimand or suspension, to removal and debarment from federal employment, and may come with a civil fine.

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