The U.S. Office of Special Counsel says Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm violated the Hatch Act when she participated in an interview with a Democratic billionaire’s daughter and implored viewers to vote for Democrats.
The government investigation found that Granholm "engaged in activity directed at the success of the Democratic Party" during the interview, which was first identified as a potential Hatch Act violation by the Washington Free Beacon last October. The Hatch Act forbids federal employees from participating in political campaigns. In the interview for Marie Claire magazine with Emily Tisch Sussman—the daughter of billionaire political donor Donald Sussman—Granholm said the most important thing viewers could do is vote for Democrats.
"I am using Democrats as a substitute for the policies that you believe in, the policies that you would like to see happen," Granholm said. "And what I say to people all the time is the most important thing you can do is make your voice heard. Vote!"
Though the government investigation found Granholm guilty of violating the Hatch Act, it said it chose not to levy any punishment because the Biden administration had failed to train Granholm on the Hatch Act, the letter explains.
"Although the [Office of Special Counsel] concluded Secretary Granholm violated the Hatch Act, the evidence gathered during our investigation does not support the conclusion that it was a knowing violation," the letter states. "Specifically, OSC learned that, before the interview, she had not received significant training about the Hatch Act’s use of official authority prohibition."
Erica Hamrick, deputy chief of the Special Counsel's Hatch Act Unit and author of the letter on Granholm's violation, did not respond to an inquiry on Granholm's ignorance of the law.
It is unclear how it was determined that Granholm was unaware of the prohibition on using her official position on electioneering. Granholm is a lawyer and has significant legal experience—she has a law degree from Harvard Law School, was a clerk for a U.S. Court of Appeals judge, and worked as an assistant U.S. Attorney before she served as Michigan's attorney general.
Granholm, in fact, referenced the Hatch Act during the interview in which she violated the act, saying that it prohibited her from making explicitly political statements during the interview.
"I'm subject to something called the Hatch Act, which means I can't advocate for people to call their Members of Congress," Granholm said. "If I weren't subject to the Hatch Act, I'm sure you know I would be, but I am so I can't do that."
Hamrick says in the letter that Granholm has "received comprehensive Hatch Act training" since her Marie Claire interview.
The initial complaint against Granholm was filed by the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, which cited the Free Beacon's reporting in its call for an investigation.