A government watchdog group filed a complaint against White House press secretary Jen Psaki, accusing her of violating the Hatch Act by appearing to endorse a candidate in Virginia’s governor’s race. White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) Susan Walsh/AP

Watchdog group files complaint against Psaki for promoting McAuliffe

Virginia Aabram October 15, 07:58 PM October 15, 08:04 PM

A government watchdog group filed a complaint against White House press secretary Jen Psaki, accusing her of violating the Hatch Act by appearing to endorse a candidate in Virginia’s governor’s race.

Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, a left-leaning organization, filed a complaint to the Office of Special Counsel for Psaki’s comments on Thursday favoring Terry McAuliffe for Virginian governor while giving a press briefing.

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“The last administration systematically co-opted the government for the president’s reelection. While this conduct does not come close to rising to the level of the outrageous offenses of the Trump administration, that does not mean we should be casual about compliance with an important ethics law,” CREW president Noah Bookbinder said in a statement.

The Hatch Act prohibits executive branch employees from “us[ing their] official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.”

Psaki responded to a question asking if the Biden administration views the Virginia gubernatorial race as an indicator of Democratic success in 2022, saying, “We’re going to do everything we can to help former Gov. McAuliffe, and we believe in the agenda he’s representing.”

CREW filed numerous complaints against members of the Trump administration, including press secretaries Kayleigh McEnany and Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The Hatch Act limitations, including prohibitions against endorsing candidates, apply to all federal employees except the president and vice president.

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During an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Psaki said she should have been more careful with her words and not said that “we” supported McAuliffe.

“I take ethics seriously. So does this president, of course,” she said. “And I’ll be more careful with my words next time. Words certainly matter.”

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