According to the independent Office of Special Counsel (OSC), Jean-Pierre and Bates took actions “contrary” to official guidance by using the term “MAGA” (Make America Great Again) in a manner deemed inappropriate under the Hatch Act.
The OSC had issued government-wide guidance, prohibiting the use of “MAGA” and similar terms as campaign-related slogans.
Despite the OSC’s acknowledgement of the spokespeople’s actions being “contrary” to its warning and guidance, no disciplinary action has been taken.
Hatch Act Unit Chief Ana Galindo‐Marrone stated in an October letter that Jean-Pierre and Bates had not used “MAGA” in an official capacity since their June infractions but warned of monitoring for future violations.
Critics, including Michael Chamberlain of the conservative watchdog group Protect the Public’s Trust, argue that the lack of enforcement undermines the Hatch Act’s efficacy, especially when high-ranking officials allegedly violate it.
The Hatch Act, designed to prevent federal employees from influencing elections, has historically faced challenges in enforcement for high-level officials.
The OSC’s decision not to pursue disciplinary action against Jean-Pierre and Bates has raised questions about the Biden administration’s commitment to upholding ethical standards, as the administration had vowed to do.
The controversy surrounding the use of “MAGA” is not new, and political speech remains a contentious issue. Former President Donald Trump’s economic plan, branded as “MAGAnomics,” was cited by the OSC as a permissible use of the term.