You're probably seen the video of a Department of State employee explaining how he cleverly skirts the Hatch Act prohibition on doing partisan political activities in his government workplace. He simply keeps his political work in draft until after office hours. Then “as soon as 5:31 hits" he sends it out. That will work, right?
No, it turns out it won't. If Mister Karaffa had read the Office of Ethics and Financial Disclosure's rules on prohibited political activities he would have learned that a domestically-assigned Civil Service employee such as himself may not engage in any political activity, even while off duty, while he is in a government office or building, including while using a personal device, or even while in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties by a U.S. Government official.
Karaffa could have come in the office after midnight or on a weekend, and sent his political work out from his own smart phone, and it would still have been a violation of the Hatch Act.
And it doesn't help that he goes and talks about it in front of a hidden camera, either, of course.
Here's a nice explanation of what the Hatch Act is and why it matters for Federal employees:
People both inside and outside the federal government like to believe that it’s “impossible” to fire a federal employee. The truth is, it’s only hard for a supervisor who doesn’t counsel their employees and keep a paper trail of infractions and attempted remediation. But aside from that, there are two ways to lose your job in the federal government quickly. One is to mess around with classified information. The other is to violate the Hatch Act.
The latest person who is about to learn this lesson is Stuart Karaffa, a Management and Program Analyst with the State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations. Karaffa is also active in the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). That alone is not a problem. But conservative undercover journalist James O’Keefe caught Karaffa on hidden camera admitting that he does much of his DSA work while on the job at State. That’s a problem.
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The Office of Special Counsel (or OSC. This is an independent federal agency, not Robert Mueller’s office.) is responsible for enforcing the Hatch Act. Its website is clear: government employees may not “engage in political activity – i.e., activity directed at the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group – while the employee is on duty, in any federal room or building, while wearing a uniform or official insignia, or using any federally owned or leased vehicle.”
Karaffa told O’Keefe’s undercover journalists that “As soon as 5:31 hits, got my like draft messages ready to send out.” Sorry, Stuart. It’s not just the clock, it’s the fact that you’re still inside the building.
Karaffa should expect a call soon from investigators at the OSC. Because while it may be difficult for a supervisor to fire a federal worker, the OSC, working through the Merit Systems Promotion Board, can and will remove someone who has violated the Hatch Act from federal service. They did it twice in August alone.
I am personally wounded to learn that Stuart Karaffa is one of my good friends in the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations. From now on, when meeting with my friends I'll have to ask whether anyone is wearing a wire.