Thoughts on the Hatch Act

This column has been a struggle. We have struggled about how to say what needs to be said and have even struggled on whether to write it at all. However, the seriousness of the allegations is enough to merit a comment.

First, a brief history of the Hatch Act. This federal law was passed in 1939 addressing politicians offering something in return for their vote. It says,

The 1939 Act forbade the intimidation or bribery of voters and restricts political campaign activities by federal employees. It prohibits using any public funds designated for relief or public works for electoral purposes. It forbade officials paid with federal funds from using promises of jobs, promotion, financial assistance, contracts, or any other benefit to coerce campaign contributions or political support.

One year later, the government amended it to include state and municipal employees and officials whose wages or duties are tied to federal funds. States have their own versions of the Hatch Act, but that focus is on employees more so than elected officials. (Of course, you can debate about whether elected officials are city employees since they do receive a small payroll check and insurance benefits…) But back to “officials whose wages or duties are tied to federal funds”… the city does receive some federal funding – JAG grants and road projects, for example. This means that our elected officials are forbidden by federal law to bribe voters while campaigning.

That said, we are praying that what our Vice Mayor witnessed – and others also heard – was a joke. A bad, bad joke yes, but still very serious.  The Vice Mayor said on his Facebook page,

Not trying to be overly confident but after today I feel like is can rest assureMayor Senna Mosley will still be here November 5th. As I never heard or saw her hand anyone a business cars and say ” if you get took to jail call me I’ll get you out”!?!?? [sic]

In the comments, someone clarified that it was the mayor’s opponent who said this. Is offering a get out of jail free card a bribe? We don’t know, we are not campaign experts, but our eyebrows are raised. Honestly, we are not here to attack Alderman Waldron for saying that because it HAD to be a joke, right? He HAD to be kidding around. But he did this in a very public place where there were many many witnesses. We are begging Mr. Waldron to stop. Stop handing out campaign business cards and saying that if you are elected, you’ll get people out of jail if they are arrested.. It is just wrong even if it was intended to be humorous.

Please understand that you are representing the entire city and please begin conducting your behavior in a way that brings us pride, not embarrassment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *