President Obama’s top cabinet members have travelled extensively to key battleground states this year on official business trips, which, if politically motivated, would be in violation of the Hatch Act.
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A half-dozen Cabinet members have made more than 85 trips this year to electoral battlegrounds such as Colorado, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to a POLITICO review of public speeches and news clippings.
Those swing-state visits represent roughly half of all travel for those six Cabinet officials this year.
The rhetoric from the secretaries has at times detoured into fiery defenses that echo the campaign messaging of Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. In addition, some secretaries — Housing and Urban Development’s Shaun Donovan and Education’s Arne Duncan — have helped the reelection effort by engaging in off-the-clock fundraising and massaging of local donors.
The Hatch Act of 1939 prohibits federal employees from campaigning in elections, but cabinet members have long fallen into an unenforced gray area of the law.
However, Ana Galindo-Marrone, chief of the Hatch Act Unit in the Office of Special Counsel, told Politico that some activities by White House Cabinet members in recent months "do give rise to Hatch Act concerns."