An ethics watchdog organization has accused U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley of illegally endorsing a Republican candidate, and has sent a letter to federal authorities calling for an investigation.
Haley retweeted President Donald Trump’s Twitter post endorsing GOP candidate Ralph Norman, who was running in a June 20 special election to represent the 5th District of South Carolina, which he went on to win.
The federal Hatch Act prohibits any employee of the federal executive branch from using “official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.” The law does not apply to the president or vice president.
“By posting this tweet on an account that referred to her official position, Ambassador Haley likely engaged in political activity prohibited by law,” says a letter that the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sent to the Office of Special Counsel Tuesday.
Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, sent the retweet on what appears to be her only Twitter account, which has almost 370,000 followers and identifies her as the “United States Ambassador to the United Nations” ― essentially giving the endorsement the imprimatur of her taxpayer-funded position. The photo on the site is a cropped image of her official picture on the State Department website.
“Ambassador Haley appears to have removed her retweet after two journalists pointed out that it might constitute a violation of the Hatch Act,” the CREW letter states. Before the race, on May 30, Norman crowed about having the support of Haley, whom Trump named ambassador to the U.N. in January.
CREW is demanding that Haley be investigated and disciplined.
Haley has not commented on the complaint.
Earlier this month, White House social media director Dan Scavino was given a warning by the OSC for violating the Hatch Act after he called for a Michigan congressman’s defeat in a tweet. He was told if he ever repeated such an action the office would consider it a “willful and knowing violation of the law.”
CREW also filed a complaint in that case. “The OSC needs to conduct a thorough investigation, as it has before, to show that these violations will continue to be taken seriously and the White House must take action to make sure these violations stop,” the group’s executive director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement.
The nonprofit sued Trump in January, accusing the president of violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits federal officials from receiving funds from a foreign government.