U.S. Energy Secretary Granholm violated ethics law, watchdog says

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U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm looks on during a news conference at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve site at Bayou Choctaw, Louisiana, U.S. May 24, 2022. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

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WASHINGTON, June 29 (Reuters) - U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm violated a law that limits the political participation and speech of federal employees during an interview in late 2021, a government watchdog said.

The Hatch Act of 1939 limits the political campaigning activities of federal employees, except the president and vice president.

Granholm's remarks made in an interview to the magazine Marie Claire were political and promoted electoral success for the Democratic Party, according to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), an independent government agency.

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"The good news is that that marching and that voting gave Democrats a bare majority, but a majority, in the House, in the Senate," Granholm had said during the live interview on Instagram.

"And again, I am using Democrats as a substitute for the policies that you believe in, the policies that you would like to see happen," she had added.

The watchdog, however, determined that disciplinary action was not necessary in response to Granholm's violation but that it would still send a warning letter to the energy secretary saying further violations could result in action.

"The Office of Special Counsel has advised the Secretary of a single unintended and unknowing infraction and this complaint is now closed. Secretary Granholm takes her ethics obligations seriously," the Energy Department said on Wednesday.

Late last year, a non-profit ethics watchdog, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), called for a probe into whether then White House press secretary Jen Psaki violated federal law with an apparent endorsement from the White House podium of a Democratic candidate for governor in Virginia. read more

During the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump, CREW logged complaints against multiple White House officials. One complaint against Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway led to an OSC recommendation that she be removed from federal service. read more

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Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; additional reporting by Timothy Gardner; editing by Aurora Ellis

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