Colorado

BREAKING: Watchdog Group Files Hatch Complaint Against Interior Secretary Salazar

Policy

An official Hatch Act complaint has been filed over U.S. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar’s recent campaign trip to Colorado, The Colorado Observer reported. As previously reported by both The Colorado Observer and Media Trackers, Salazar may have violated the Hatch Act when his official title of Secretary of the Interior was used at an Obama campaign event.

According to the Observer, “Cause of Action, a Washington-based firm, said it asked to [sic] the Office of Special Counsel to evaluate Salazar’s activities and statements at a campaign event sponsored by the Montrose County Democratic Party on Oct. 5.”

This is the same event where Salazar was headlined and billed as Secretary of Interior, as seen in the screenshot of the Montrose County Democratic Party calendar at the left.

Before Cause of Action filed the official complaint, The Colorado Observer attempted to confirm whether Salazar knew his government title had been used for the event. The Colorado Observer contacted Kathryn Carson of the Montrose County Democratic Party to ask whether the Party had sent an invitation to Salazar’s office in D.C.

In response, Carson denied knowledge of any invitation or who sent it, the Observer reported.

According to the Observer’s report, the communications director for the Department of Interior has also denied any wrongdoing by Salazar, insisting that the Secretary was acting only in his personal capacity and that the Montrose County Democratic Party has been unresponsive to calls.

As previously reported, Hatch Act complaints have risen sharply in the last decade, as have warning letters issued by the Office of Special Counsel  - which handles complaints regarding potential Hatch Act violations. Complaints and warning letters have risen 144% and 178% respectively since 2001, according to a Daily Caller article from September.

Media Trackers Colorado filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for all documents surrounding Salazar’s travel to and from Colorado in order to campaign for President Obama. Additionally, Media Trackers requested any calendar information relating to any official business the Secretary may have engaged in while on this trip. Acknowledgement of the FOIA request was received on October 12.

When contacted this afternoon for comment, the FOIA office said it was, “waiting on documentation from one other group/person/office” before they “will be able to start to process the request from our end to get it to you.” When asked how long Media Trackers could expect to wait for the additional documentation, the FOIA representative advised that they had no way to tell, considering that they are waiting on a response from outside their own office.

Follow Aaron Gardner on Twitter: @aaron_rs

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