Published September 13, 2012
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius violated federal law when she campaigned this winter for President Obama, federal investigators announced Wednesday.
Sebelius broke the law by making “extemporaneous partisan remarks” during a speech in February at a Human Rights Campaign Event in Charlotte, N.C., according to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). She made the comments in the city that would later host the Democratic National Convention.
"One of the imperatives is to make sure that we not only come together here in Charlotte to present the nomination to the president, but we make sure that in November, he continues to be president for another four years," Sebelius said, according to the agency and reported first by The Hill newspaper.
The agency said Sebelius’ comments violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits public officials from campaigning in an official capacity.
The agency said the Department of Health and Human Services after the event reclassified the trip from official to political and that the federal government was reimbursed for related costs.
However, the OSC still concluded Sebelius had violated federal law and has sent the report to the president -- the procedure for a government official appointed by a president and confirmed by the Senate.
OSC spokeswoman Ann O’Hanlon said there is no formal rule for dealing with an appointed official in violation of the act. However, the agency investigates at least 100 cases such cases annually with “a great majority” of them being resolved internally and violators getting a suspension.
O'Hanlon said the remaining cases are sent to the Merit System Protection Board, which can decide to terminate the employment of non-appointed federal employees or give them a 30-day suspension.
Still, Maureen Ferguson and Ashley McGuire of the Catholic Association are calling for Sebelius’ resignation.
“Throughout her tenure at Health and Human Services, most of Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' actions have advanced the president's political interests,” they said in a joint statement.
Sebelius could not be reached late Wednesday afternoon, but her response to the findings is supposed to be in the report forwarded to the president.
She also discussed state politics in the Feb. 25 speech, urging voters to defeat a ballot proposal opposing gay marriage and to elect a Democratic governor, according to The Hill.