08.28.20

Reps. Lee, Fudge, DeLauro, Bustos, McGovern Sound Alarm on Potential Hatch Act Violation by USDA Secretary

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Barbara Lee, Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies, joined with Reps. Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11), Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Cheri Bustos (IL-17); Jim McGovern (MA-2) and Alma Adams (NC-12) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Office of Ethics sounding the alarm on a potential Hatch Act violation by USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue after he made political statements promoting the President’s re-election at an official government event earlier this week.  The letter comes a day after the conclusion of the Republican National Convention, which included several possible violations of the Hatch Act over the course of four days, most notably the President’s acceptance speech on the South Lawn of the White House last night.

“On August 24, 2020, during an official government event in Mills River, North Carolina to announce an additional $1 billion of taxpayer funds for USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program, Secretary Perdue publicly advocated for area residents to vote for President Trump,” the Members wrote. 

The Members added, “Specifically, while standing alongside President Trump, the Secretary stated, ‘Mr. President, as you saw those throngs of people lining both sides of the road from the airport all the way to Mills River here, those were those forgotten people that voted for you for 2016.  And I've got better news for you: they and many others are gonna vote for you for four more years in 2020.’  We believe engaging in such political activity while acting in his official capacity is a blatant violation of federal law under the Hatch Act.”

Noting the Hatch Act prohibits executive branch employees from using their official position to influence the result of an election, the Members requested information on Departmental travel to ensure USDA is complying with the Hatch Act.

The letter follows the August 26, 2020 filing of a complaint by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington requesting that the U.S. Special Counsel investigate whether the Secretary’s actions constitute a violation of the Hatch Act.

The letter also follows an August 14, 2020 letter led by Rep. Fudge to USDA expressing concerns about the Department plans to include a letter signed by the President in food boxes distributed through the Farmers to Families Food Box Program.

A signed copy of the letter can be found here.