During the run-up to the 2022 midterm elections, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre regularly warned of “mega MAGA Republicans,” in violation of the federal Hatch Act, according to a government watchdog organization.

According to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, Jean-Pierre used the term during press conferences last year, breaching the Hatch Act, which forbids government workers from using their positions to interfere with the outcome of elections.

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What is the Hatch Act?

A special government agency called the Office of Special Counsel is responsible for upholding a number of laws, including the Hatch Act. The purpose of the law is to prevent the federal government from interfering with elections or conducting its business in a partisan manner. The rule, as described by the OSC, is applicable to both federal employees and state and local employees who work on federally financed programs.

The regulation is an establishment’s policy, and breaking it is not against the law. After a worker breaks a regulation, repercussions might range greatly, from a warning to losing their position. For those protected by the Hatch Act, the OSC has its own rules to prevent infractions, and more recently, it published rules specifically for social media.

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In a letter dated June 7 and signed by Ana Galindo-Marrone, head of the Hatch Act Unit of the Office of Special Counsel, it was stated that even though Jean-Pierre “never expressly instructed viewers” to vote for or against Republican candidates, the agency came to the conclusion that “the timing, frequency, and content of Ms. Jean-Pierre’s references to ‘MAGA Republicans'” proved the references were made to incite opposition to Republicans.

Ironically, Jean-Pierre frequently invokes the Hatch Act as a defense for refusing to respond to inquiries from the media, especially when those inquiries concern former President Donald Trump, who is vying for the office of president in 2024.

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When questioned about it during the press conference on Tuesday, Jean-Pierre cited the over 2,000 instances of “Make America Great Again” from the Trump administration on the White House website’s archived pages and said that congressional Republicans have been using “MAGA” frequently in official policy “for years now.”