New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Accused of Violating the Hatch Act

Andrew Cuomo
Andrew Cuomo / AP
July 25, 2016

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D.) has been accused of violating a federal law that prohibits government employees from engaging in political activity while on the job after allegedly using tax dollars to pay for ads in North Carolina that attempted to "interfere" with the state’s gubernatorial and legislative races.

A former North Carolina Supreme Court judge filed complaints with the Office of Special Counsel and a New York state ethics panel charging that commercials circulated by Cuomo’s Democratic administration "mention North Carolina and its leadership in a transparent attempt to criticize, interfere and affect" the upcoming elections, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

The retired judge, Robert Orr, said the ads, which reference North Carolina’s controversial transgender bathroom law, violate the federal Hatch Act.

North Carolina’s Republican Gov. Pat McCrory is running for reelection this year along with the state’s GOP-led legislature.

John Kelly, a spokesman for Cuomo, called the complaints "frivolous."

"It would be funny if the issues we were actually talking about did not involve human rights and basic equality," Kelly told the Wall Street Journal. "New York welcomes everyone—everyone—who seeks to embrace freedom while pursuing their dreams."

Kelly did not address the allegations that Cuomo was attempting to influence North Carolina’s elections. The ads are no longer running.

"By using public funds to promote New York as supporting certain policies and implicitly criticizing contrary political decisions made in North Carolina, an ethical [limitation] has been breached," the federal complaint says.

Housing Secretary Julián Castro, who was vetted as a potential Hillary Clinton running mate, was found guilty last week of violating the Hatch Act.

Castro praised Clinton during an April interview with Yahoo News anchor Katie Couric from his official office. The Office of Special Counsel determined that Castro did not distance himself far enough from his federal role when lauding Clinton and therefore breeched federal law.

The White House said last week that it would not punish Castro for violating federal law, calling  what he did an "inadvertent error."