Julian Castro

Image courtesy CNN

Julian Castro Violated Federal Law

| published July 19, 2016 |

By Thursday Review staff

A top Democrat on the rumored short-list of potential running mates for presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton violated Federal law, according to a report from a government watchdog agency.

Julian Castro, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and a member of Barack Obama’s cabinet, made comments in April of this year during a media interview deemed something akin to a political endorsement—a violation of the spirit and the letter of the Hatch Act. The Hatch Act prohibits top Federal appointees and top Executive Branch officials—including all members of a President’s cabinet—from taking sides in electoral politics and from making political endorsements, specifically while on official business.

The violation, according to the report by the U.S. Office of the Special Counsel, occurred during an April 4 interview in which Castro was asked about the Presidential election, and at which time he attempted to shield himself by telling the interviewer that he was “taking off” his “HUD hat and speaking individually.” The report says that cabinet members are given no such latitude to simply state—outside of official business and during a media interview—that they are speaking off the record or out of the context of their roles as members of the Executive branch.

The infraction may be deemed minor to some, but the report clearly states that Castro was in violation of a very serious restriction crafted to keep politics out of the operational decision-making required of top government officials. In other words, Castro cannot simply remove “his HUD hat” and endorse a candidate.

First reported by BuzzFeed, the agency’s report will automatically go to both the President and the U.S. Justice Department for review. The fracas may have little impact on the trajectory of the Clinton campaign, but it may weigh heavily on Clinton’s soon-to-be-announced decision regarding a running mate—a choice she will likely make only days ahead of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Castro has remained near the top of the short list of possible Clinton VP choices for more than a month, sharing the speculative spotlight with Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, California Congressman Xavier Becerra, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, New Jersey Senator Corey Booker, and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is also high on the list, but some Democratic Party insiders say that the Clinton campaign has already eliminated Warren as an option.

In reaction to the OSC findings, Castro has attempted to clarify his understanding of the law, stating that he thought that by offering the very clear disclaimer that he was removing his “HUD hat,” he was cleared to engage in a brief moment of political endorsement-making. The report, however, concluded that Castro was clearly in violation of the Hatch Act.

The White House has sought to make sure no other officials fall victim to any rule-breaking; the Obama administration has recently issued a strongly-worded reminder that neither cabinet members nor cabinet-level appointees can offer political endorsements of federal candidates. But the White House took it a step further, effectively issuing a ban on any current Obama cabinet member or top staffer from appearing in any capacity at the Democratic convention, and issuing an edict—linked to its understanding of the Hatch Act—that no top Obama officials may appear at the podium, with the possible exception of vice-President Joe Biden, likely exempt from the provisions of the Hatch Act.

Four years ago, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius found herself under the glare of a similar inquest after she appeared at a political rally to offer an endorsement of President Obama.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Media Reports: Elizabeth Warren Out as Clinton VP; Thursday Review staff; Thursday Review; July 13, 2016.

Clinton VP List Narrowed to Kaine, Castro, Warren?; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; June 23, 2016.