A leading federal regulator appeared to signal her support for Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid at a Tuesday event near the Democratic National Convention that also featured a senior adviser to the Clinton campaign.
Federal Communications Commissioner Mignon Clyburn suggested that Clinton, not Republican rival Donald Trump, would be the next president of the United States in remarks made in her official capacity.
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Clyburn, a former acting chair of the FCC, "suggested she’s ready to take a larger role if called to do so again," according to a Communications Daily report on the event.
"I’m looking forward, whatever my title is, to working with whoever she is that will be elected soon," Clyburn said. She then acknowledged her use of the word "she."
"Yes, I said it out loud," Mignon said.
Clyburn was seated next to Hillary for America senior adviser Sara Solow, another of the event’s panelists.
The event, hosted by telecommunications policy group Mobile Future, used Clyburn’s official title, and the commissioner spoke primarily about the agency’s work on wireless internet issues.
Federal law prohibits government employees from endorsing political candidates in their official capacities or using their official titles.
According to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, they "may express opinions about candidates and issues. If the expression is political activity, however – i.e., activity directed at the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group – then the expression is not permitted while the employee is on duty."
Clyburn did not respond to a request for comment about her remarks.
As concerning as her comments were the circumstances in which they were made, according to former associate White House counsel Richard Painter.
"I don't think it appropriate for the Commissioner to be on a panel with a campaign official—although that is not an endorsement it comes too close for comfort," Painter, now a law professor at the University of Minnesota, said in an email.
Painter also pointed out that an invitation for the event advertised it as taking place "at the DNC."
It "sounds like a separate event, but it is borderline," he wrote.
Update: After publication, a Clyburn spokesperson emailed the following statement:
"The comments made by Commissioner Clyburn at yesterday's Mobile Future event were not intended to be and should not be construed as an endorsement of any candidate. Had the Commissioner intended to make such an endorsement, it would have been done explicitly and in an appropriate forum. The Commissioner's quoted comment was simply a restatement of the moderator's original question in which the ‘she' pronoun was used. This question was discussed in advance of the event and it was agreed that any response would be within the bounds of the Commissioner's official capacity."