A prominent government watchdog group filed an official complaint Tuesday alleging Ambassador Nikki Haley broke federal law.
"Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington respectfully requests that the Office of Special Counsel investigate whether United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley violated the Hatch Act by retweeting a tweet that President Donald J. Trump posted..." Crew wrote to acting Special Counsel Adam Miles.
The Hatch Act is a federal law prohibiting executive branch employees from using their position to influence political elections.
At issue is whether Ambassador Haley was allowed to campaign for Ralph Northam, the Republican Party nominee in a South Carolina congressional special election to fill the seat vacated by Trump budget director Mick Mulvaney.
Ambassador Haley's tweet may have been particularly powerful as she had served as the Governor of South Carolina prior to being confirmed by the US Senate.
“As the recent former Governor of South Carolina, Ambassador Haley may care deeply about her party’s electoral performance in the state, but the rules separating politics from official government work still apply,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder explained. “The Hatch Act is intended to prevent federal employees from using their official position for electoral purposes, which is exactly what Ambassador Haley appeared to be doing.”
"There is a certain irony that Haley could get in trouble for retweeting what the president tweeted," said Kathleen Clark, an ethics law professor at Washington University in St. Louis told NPR. "People retweet for various purposes. Sometimes people say that retweets are not endorsements, but she does not say that or warn people that way. It appears to be partisan political activity in support of this South Carolina candidate."
“The OSC needs to conduct a thorough investigation, as it has before, to show that these violations will continue to be taken seriously," Bookbinder stated. And the White House must take action to make sure these violations stop.”
CREW has had previous success in utilizing the Hatch Act to police the actions of the Trump administration on Twitter.
Earlier this month, Ana Galindo-Marrone, the chief of the Hatch Act Unit in the Office of Special Counsel, reprimanded White House Director of Social Media Dan Scavino, Jr. for violating the Hatch Act by using Twitter to call for the defeat of a member of Congress in a primary election.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the National Security Archive teamed up and filed a federal lawsuit noting, "Presidential statements made on Twitter sent from the President’s personal Twitter account, which are subject to federal record-keeping obligations, have been destroyed."