OC Political

A right-of-center blog covering local, statewide, and national politics

Posts Tagged ‘Hatch Act’

Assembly Candidate Jose Moreno Counters Hatch Act Violation Allegations

Posted by Newsletter Reprint on April 22, 2012

This came over the wire from the Jose Moreno for Assembly campaign (Assembly candidate Jose Moreno should not be confused with Anaheim City School District Trustee Jose F. Moreno) this weekend…

ASSEMBLY CANDIDATE JOSE MORENO  COUNTERS HATCH ACT VIOLATION ALLEGATIONS

PRESS RELEASE, FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, April 21, 2012

ANAHEIM – There has been a lot of speculation regarding my candidacy for the 69th Assembly District,  and whether the federal Hatch Act applies to my campaign, which I am addressing in this press release. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in 69th Assembly District | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Moreno’s Attempt to Withdraw from AD-69 & Hatch Act Implications

Posted by Chris Nguyen on April 12, 2012

Jose "Joe" Moreno

Jose "Joe" Moreno

The Orange County Register’s Andrew Galvin reported yesterday that on Thursday, March 29, AD-69 candidate Jose “Joe” Moreno (not to be confused with Anaheim City School District Trustee Jose F. Moreno) wrote a letter to the Registrar of Voters asking to withdraw from the AD-69 race:

I Jose Moreno a candidate running for the 69th Assembly District, request that the Orange County Registrar of Voters, effective immediately remove my name as a candidate for the aforementioned office.  I have learned that I may be violating the Hatch Act, as an employee working for a federally funded agency.

Registrar Neal Kelley responded to Moreno the same day denying the request.  (I do find it odd that the Registrar did not send this request to the Secretary of State’s office, as that office is the one that makes final determinations as to the appearance on the ballot of candidates for State offices, like the Assembly.)

After Kelley refused to remove Moreno from the ballot, the Register reported that Moreno decided that “he will continue to actively campaign for the Assembly seat.”

On Friday, April 6, the Fresno Bee reported that candidate Geof Lickey got off the ballot in the AD-31 race due to the Hatch Act.

On Monday, April 9, I wrote a post speculating about Moreno’s eligibility to run due to the Hatch Act.

The Register wrote that Moreno “expects to lose his job” while his employer, “the Social Services Agency, said the agency doesn’t comment on personnel matters.”  Either Moreno’s speculation about losing his job is overblown or the County Social Services Agency is overreacting, as firing Moreno is the toughest penalty available under the Hatch Act.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is responsible for investigating and charging violations of the Hatch Act (essentially, they fulfill the enforcement role for the Hatch Act), which is adjudicated before the Merit Systems Protection Board.

In a 2007 advisory opinion to a candidate, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel wrote:

OSC did not open an investigation into the matter because you withdrew your candidacy once we informed you that the Hatch Act prohibited it. Because you attempted to come into compliance with the law, we did not view your violation as a knowing and willful one…OSC has not opened an investigation into this matter because you attempted to withdraw from the election…Accepting an appointment to this same position does not, in our opinion, evidence good faith on your part. Thus, if you were to accept an appointment to the [position]…OSC would consider the acceptance an aggravating factor in this matter, which likely would cause us to open an investigation.”

In other words, a good faith effort to withdraw from an election is enough to mitigate the penalties of the Hatch Act, provided the candidate does not attempt to pursue the office after the withdrawal effort.

Posted in 69th Assembly District | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

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.

Posted in 69th Assembly District | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 36 Comments »