Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra has violated federal law, according to findings by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC).
In a letter, Special Counsel Henry Kerner sent to President Joe Biden, Kerner noted that Becerra had violated the Hatch Act by publicly supporting the re-election of Democratic California Sen. Alex Padilla while officially serving as HHS secretary.
Kerner wrote that an attached report explained how Becerra “violated the Hatch Act by expressing support” on September 15, 2022, when he officially endorsed the re-election campaign of Senator Alex Padilla while speaking at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Annual Awards Gala in “an official capacity.”
The Hatch Act, which Kerner cited, prohibits federal employees from using their official power or influence to affect an election’s outcome.
Kerner noted that Becerra illegally combined his personal election wishes with his official remarks.
Kerner continued, explaining that although federal employees were allowed to express support for a candidate in person, the Hatch Act restricts government officials from providing that support in an official capacity.
The Special Counsel explained that as next year’s presidential election approaches, the report offers an opportunity to prevent violations by reminding federal employees at all levels of the limitations of the Hatch Act.
To negate such instances, Kerner concluded that he was sending Biden the report and Secretary Becerra’s response to peruse.
In his response to the OSC’s findings, Becerra called his words an “inadvertent violation” and said he regretted them, adding that he didn’t “realize” his “off-the-cuff remarks” on his personal voting intentions violated the Hatch Act.”
Becerra added that he would work hard to make sure there are no violations in the future.