WASHINGTON — An independent federal investigative agency found Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge violated the Hatch Act earlier this year for weighing in on Ohio’s 2022 Senate race, Politico reported Thursday.
During a March 18 White House press briefing, Fudge deflected a question on who should succeed her in the open congressional seat in Ohio’s 11th District. But she offered her opinion on possible candidates to replace retiring Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.
“I have two friends that are thinking about it,” Fudge said, according to a March report in The Washington Post. “Tim Ryan of course is thinking about. I understand Nan Whaley is thinking about it. I mean, I think we’re going to put a good person in that race no matter who we choose, but they’re both friends. I think we have a good shot at it. I know people have written off Ohio. I haven’t written off Ohio. I believe we can win the Senate race.”
Ryan, a fellow Ohio congressman, and Whaley, the mayor of Dayton, are both Democrats. Before resigning from Congress in March to helm HUD, Fudge served as a Democratic congresswoman from Ohio for over a decade.
Fudge admitted her error in a statement released a day after the press briefing, per Politico. “I acknowledge that I should have stuck with my first instinct and not answered the question. I take these things seriously and I want to assure the American people that I am focused on meeting the needs of our country,” she stated.
A week later, Americans for Public Trust, a conservative watchdog group, filed a complaint against Fudge with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, an independent investigative agency, for violating the Hatch Act. The act limits certain political activity among federal employees.
Ana Galindo-Marrone, chief of the OSC Hatch Act Unit, confirmed Fudge violated the Hatch Act in a letter addressed to Americans for Public Trust Executive Director Caitlin Sutherland and published by Politico.
“By stating, for example, that ‘we have a good shot at it’ and ‘I believe we can win the Senate race,’ Secretary Fudge showed support for the Democratic Party with respect to the Ohio Senate race while speaking in her official capacity. Accordingly, OSC has concluded that she violated the Hatch Act during her official appearance at the March 18 press briefing,” she wrote.
In light of Fudge’s prompt public apology, Galindo-Marrone said OSC closed the matter by issuing a warning letter to the HUD secretary.
“Please note that Secretary Fudge has been advised that if in the future she engages in prohibited political activity we will consider such activity to be a willful and knowing violation of the law that could result in further action,” she wrote.