Blumenthal wants hearing on whether Whitaker violated Hatch Act
WASHINGTON — Sen. Richard Blumenthal continued his campaign Monday against acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker by requesting a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing into whether the Whitaker violated the Hatch Act, a federal law that prohibits government employees from participating in political activities.
In a letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, Blumenthal pointed to Federal Election Commission filings that show Whitaker received donations to his failed 2014 Senate campaign while he was serving as former Attorney General Jeff Session’s chief of staff.
FEC records show that Whitaker’s campaign committee, which still carries about $49,000 in debt, hadn’t received any contributions between 2015 through 2017. But that Senate campaign committee accepted $8,800 in donations this year, while Whitaker was serving as a top Justice Department lawyer.
In his letter requesting the hearing, Blumenthal also raised other questions about Whitaker’s political impartiality, citing the acting attorney general’s employment at a conservative political group before joining the Justice Department.
“As you know, the Hatch Act prohibits government employees from accepting political contributions and is one of the chief anti-corruption measures in American law,” Blumenthal wrote. “Additionally, recent reports indicate that immediately prior to his employment at DOJ, Mr. Whitaker earned $1.2 million heading a conservative political group whose donors are anonymous. These payments at the very least call into question Mr. Whitaker’s impartiality as the chief law enforcement officer of the United States.”
As a member of the minority of the Judiciary Committee, Blumenthal cannot schedule an official hearing on Whitaker. But he and other Democrats on the panel can put pressure on Grassley and by doing so call attention to their concerns about the appointment.
Blumenthal also belongs to a group of Judiciary Committee Democrats who are challenging Whitaker’s appointment in court. They argue President Donald Trump violated the U.S. Constitution’s appointment clause in appointing Whitaker to head the Justice Department after the ouster of Sessions as attorney general earlier this month.