A government watchdog said on Tuesday that Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra violated the Hatch Act by supporting Democratic Senator Alex Padilla’s re-election at a public event last year.
As per Reuters, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel report cited Becerra’s September remarks at a Congressional Hispanic Caucus dinner in his official capacity that he intended to vote for Padilla as having “mixed his personal electoral preference with official remarks.”
Becerra, the chief health official for President Joe Biden, acknowledged his remarks but claimed they were unintentional.
“Although I did not realize at the time that my impromptu comments about my personal voting intentions violated the Hatch Act, I now understand why they were not permitted,” he said in a statement included in the report.
The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from using their official capacity to influence or interfere with elections. Other political activities, however, are permitted. The report was forwarded to the Democrat Biden for “appropriate action.” White House representatives could not be reached promptly for comment.
Independent agency Office of the Special Counsel can make recommendations but lacks the authority to enforce them. It previously cited comments made by Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm in a magazine interview last year.
Under former Republican President Donald Trump, the office also cited high-level administration officials for violations and demanded the removal of one, Kellyanne Conway.