As the head of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the federal agency that enforces the law against partisan political activity in government workplaces, I wish to respond to a recent article concerning this agency and the Hatch Act ["Partisan Politics at Work Criticized; Federal Employees Used as a 'Prop' in Bush Reelection Campaign in Violation of Hatch Act, Union Charges," news story, Oct. 5]. Readers may have been left with the impression that this office has enforced the Hatch Act unevenly or with bias. This is demonstrably false.
The Hatch Act prohibits most federal employees from engaging in political activity while on duty and is intended to foster public perception of an impartial bureaucracy that is not beholden to any party.
The OSC has a consistent record of nonpartisan and objective enforcement by experienced career staff members, respected throughout the government, who give advisory opinions, conduct nationwide outreach, and prosecute officials of this and preceding administrations. The Post article and others may have mistakenly given the impression that the OSC focuses only on prosecutions of Democrats, but the OSC is prosecuting violators affiliated with the Republican Party, the Green Party and other partisan groups. Readers may check our Web site (www.osc.gov) for news releases and details about these cases, and read for themselves the wide range of political parties and types of employees who have been the subject of investigation or prosecution.
Recently the OSC issued reminders to federal employees to avoid partisan activities, including campaign events and partisan voter registration drives, in federal buildings. Federal employees were also told to avoid using government computers to send expressly partisan e-mails, which can amount to a form of electronic leafleting. The agency prosecuted two federal employees recently for sending such e-mails, one opposing President Bush's candidacy and one opposing Sen. John F. Kerry's candidacy.
Partisanship, as James Madison noted, is sown into our nature, but those who are given the public trust should exercise self-control and uphold a higher standard in government offices. If we fall short, we have the Hatch Act to remind us of the virtue of nonpartisanship.
SCOTT J. BLOCH
U.S. Office of Special Counsel