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Energy secretary violated Hatch Act during Trump administration, says federal watchdog

Dan Brouillette, Graham, Speech (copy)

Then-Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette, left, listens to U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, speak at the Statehouse in Columbia in August 2020. (Colin Demarest/Staff)

Former Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette last year illegally campaigned for then-President Donald Trump’s reelection, a federal watchdog concluded in a report published this week.

Brouillette is one of 13 senior Trump administration officials the Office of Special Counsel said violated the Hatch Act, a law that limits certain political activities of federal employees and prohibits the use of government resources for partisan purposes.

Top administration officials knew of the restrictions imposed by the Hatch Act, the office said, citing two reports to the president that documented violations prior to the 2020 election as well as “an unprecedented 15 warning letters” sent to officials.

Brouillette – like a handful of others, including then-chief of staff Mark Meadows and then-senior adviser Jared Kushner – breached the Hatch Act during a media interview, the independent watchdog reported.

Appearing on the “Brian Kilmeade Show” in an official capacity, Brouillette “argued against candidate Biden’s purported proposal, said that Americans should question whether those purported proposals were something they should support, and told listeners how they should evaluate candidate Biden’s” statements, the Office of Special Counsel said.

While there was some discussion of policy, the office argued, there was also “political activity” – warning what would happen if Biden won. Disregard for the Hatch Act and its consequences, the report stated, fostered “what appeared to be a taxpayer-funded campaign apparatus within the upper echelons of the executive branch.”

Brouillette told investigators he “intentionally deflected” while on the show “to avoid commenting on the election or specific comments made by candidates,” according to a footnote in the Nov. 9 report.

The violations itemized by the Office of Special Counsel will not result in penalties or discipline.

“Where, as happened in the Trump administration, the White House chooses to ignore the Hatch Act’s requirements, there is currently no mechanism for holding senior administration officials accountable for violating the law,” the report reads.

Brouillette served as the 15th energy secretary, on the heels of Rick Perry’s exit from atop the Department of Energy. He previously served as the deputy secretary of energy. He is now the president of Sempra Infrastructure, which deals with liquified natural gas.

In August 2020 Brouillette helped announce a historic $600 million payment to South Carolina over the storage of plutonium at the Savannah River Site.

Colin Demarest covers the Savannah River Site, the Energy Department, its NNSA, and government and politics, in general. Follow him on Twitter: @demarest_colin.

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