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Posts Tagged ‘Carl Hatch’

Has AD-69 Candidate Jose Moreno Violated Federal Law?

Posted by Chris Nguyen on April 9, 2012

U.S. Senator Carl Hatch (D-NM)

U.S. Senator Carl Hatch (D-NM), author of the eponymous Hatch Act

In a rather unfortunate turn of events, it appears AD-69 candidate Jose “Joe” Moreno may have violated federal law. (Remember, this Jose Moreno should not be confused with Anaheim City School District Trustee Jose F. Moreno.) The explanation for this lies in a Fresno County Assembly district.

On Friday, the Fresno Bee reported that Republican Geof Lickey withdrew from the AD-31 race against incumbent Democrat Henry Perea. The Bee indicated Lickey had indeed met the March 9 filing deadline and qualified for the ballot before his withdrawal; this March 23 list of candidates who qualified for the ballot from the Secretary of State also confirms this. Lickey was able to remove himself from the ballot, as this April 4 list from the Secretary of State indicates Perea is the sole candidate in AD-31.

The Bee reported, “The Hatch Act bars federal employees from using government resources for partisan purposes. But Lickey was told it also prohibited him from running for partisan political office — even though he doesn’t work for a federal agency.”

The Hatch Act, named after its author, U.S. Senator Carl Hatch (D-NM), was adopted to reduce the usage of federal government jobs to advance partisan political ends after Works Progress Administration officials were found to be using their positions to win votes for Hatch’s party.  Hatch was outraged by this corruption from his own party and wrote the Hatch Act.  Two attempts to have the act overturned on free speech grounds were rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court, who held that the Hatch Act is constitutional.

Among other things, the Hatch Act prohibits covered employees from being “candidates for public office in a partisan election.”

Potential candidates covered by the Hatch Act should act with caution before entering partisan politics. Indeed, when speculation surrounded a potential State Senate candidacy by California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board Member Sharon Runner in 2010, she refused to even comment on whether she would enter the race due to the Hatch Act. Only after Runner resigned from the CUIAB did she announce that she was running for the State Senate (which she went on to win).

Moreno selected “Orange County Eligibility Technician” as his ballot designation, and that, of course, is his actual job. What does an Eligibility Technician at the County of Orange do? Well, here’s the County’s job description.

So how does the federal Hatch Act apply to a county employee like Moreno?

Well, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel states, “The Hatch Act restricts the political activity of individuals principally employed by state or local executive agencies and who work in connection with programs financed in whole or in part by federal loans or grants.”

According to the County’s job description, part of Moreno’s job is: “explaining and administering laws and policies pertaining to Federal/State/County assistance programs.”

(If you’re wondering why partisan elected officials aren’t banned from running for re-election, elected officials are exempted from the Hatch Act if their elected post deals with federal dollars and their elected post would be the sole cause for a Hatch Act conflict. It would be kind of funny, though, if the Hatch Act prevented every Governor in the country from running for re-election because states administer many federally-funded programs.)

As I mentioned above, the Hatch Act prohibits covered employees from being “candidates for public office in a partisan election.”

In light of Prop 14, is a race for the Assembly still a partisan election since candidates are no longer nominated by political parties?

Under the Hatch Act FAQs: “if a candidate solicits or advertises the endorsement of a partisan political party or uses a political party’s resources to further his or her campaign, these actions may rebut the presumption that an election is nonpartisan, and thus, indicate that the election is a partisan one. While each case is fact specific, the Board has consistently held that it is less about the title used, and more about the actions of the candidate.”

More definitively, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel issued an advisory opinion in 2001 stating, “For purposes of the Hatch Act, an election is deemed partisan if political party designations appear on a ballot next to candidates’ names.”

Moreno listed himself on the ballot as a Republican. He also told the Orange County Register that he had sought financing from the Republican Party to pay the filing fee to run for Assembly.

It looks like the Hatch Act may put an end to the Moreno candidacy for AD-69.

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