Housing Secretary and potential Hillary Clinton running mate Julián Castro violated a federal law that bars government employees from engaging in political activity while on the job when he praised the presumptive Democratic nominee during an interview from his official office, government investigators announced Monday.
The Office of Special Counsel determined that Castro breeched the Hatch Act during an April interview with Yahoo News anchor Katie Couric. The House and Urban Development seal was visible behind Castro as he touted his support for Clinton and discussed the possibility of becoming her vice president.
"In the end, the American people understand that she has a positive vision for the country that includes opportunity for everybody, and she can actually get it done," Castro said in the interview, the Washington Post reported.
The OSC said that Castro did not distance himself far enough from his federal role when lauding Clinton.
"Although he stated during the interview that he was ‘taking off my HUD hat for a second and just speaking individually,’ to indicate he was answering questions in his personal capacity, that disclaimer could not negate the fact that he was appearing in his official capacity for the rest of the interview," the investigators wrote in a statement.
"The official HUD seal remained behind him and his political comments were bracketed by statements concerning official HUD policies and programs," they added.
Castro wrote in a letter to OSC that he thought he was complying with the law at the time, but admitted that his disclaimer "was not sufficient."
"My aim was to make clear to anyone viewing the broadcast that, when answering those direct questions regarding candidates, I was not acting in my official capacity," he told investigators. "I now have watched the recording of the interview and appreciate that, while my intention was to avoid any blurring of roles and make clear that I was not speaking as a representative of HUD, that fact may not have been obvious to viewers."
Castro’s name has been widely circulated as a potential vice presidential pick for Clinton, though he is not expected to be selected.