The one-time Clinton bundler was the subject of a litany of ethical complaints during his time in the White House—including allegations that he allowed famous campaign donors to bid for nights in the Lincoln Bedroom and that he brokered a deal to trade nuclear secrets to the Chinese in return for donations to Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign.
Now McAuliffe, himself, hoping to get a second term as Virginia governor amid tightening polls in the otherwise solid-blue state, is the one leading other White House surrogates to breach their ethical obligations.
A left-leaning government watchdog group said Friday that it had filed an ethics complaint against White House press secretary Jen Psaki for a comment she made about McAuliffe.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which was formed specifically as an anti-Trump attack group that supported House Democrats’ attempt to impeach the former president, said Psaki violated the Hatch Act when she appeared to endorse McAuliffe during a White House press briefing on Thursday.
The Hatch Act prevents federal employees from engaging in political work while performing their official duties.
In response to a reporter’s question about Virginia’s Nov. 2 election, Psaki said, “We’re going to do everything we can to help former Gov. McAuliffe, and we believe in the agenda he’s representing.”
Immediately before making the comment in support of McAuliffe, Psaki said she needed to be “careful about how much political analysis” she offered in her official capacity.
After CREW filed its complaint, Psaki said in a CNN interview Friday that she should have used the word “he” instead of “we” in response to the question.
“While the president has publicly expressed his support for McAuliffe, we’ll leave it to the press and the campaign to provide commentary on the race,” Psaki said in a statement. “I take ethics very seriously and will choose my words more carefully moving forward.”
Early voting is underway in Virginia, where McAuliffe faces Republican Glenn Youngkin, a former top executive at the private equity firm the Carlyle Group.
First lady Jill Biden is campaigning with McAuliffe on Friday, and McAuliffe said President Joe Biden was expected to visit in coming days. It is unclear whether Biden’s appearances will help, as some signs have suggested McAuliffe may be trying to distance himself from Biden.
Even in Charlottesville, often seen as one of the bluest cities in the state, mask mandates on the historic Downtown Mall were not being strictly enforced as Democrats in power wish to distract from the president’s disastrous mishandling of the pandemic.
A poll by the Trafalgar Group had the two candidates tied in a dead heat with 48% each, although Democrat shenanigans during early voting may prove to be the final determinant, barring any massive screw ups from Democrats between now and early November.
McAuliffe already faced a scandal earlier in the campaign amid accusations that he had accepted a large donation from a foreign national. However, it received little attention from the mainstream press.
As for Psaki, who already has announced her planned departure next year, she is likely to face any consequences from a Biden administration that has been casual about enforcing its own self-imposed ethical standards.
Conflicts of interest involving the president’s son, Hunter Biden, have been rampant—including his laundering of influence through an art-gallery scam that flouted earlier promises from the White House—including Psaki herself—that he would not know the buyers.
Leftists may be increasingly aware that their double standards in ignoring the faults of the current administration are taking a toll on Democrats more broadly in the political climate, which would explain why the anti-Trump CREW needs to nominally chastise Psaki.
During the presidency of Donald Trump, the Office of Special Counsel, which is tasked with enforcing the Hatch Act, officially reported several of Trump’s aides for ethics violations and called on the president to fire his senior counselor Kellyanne Conway for repeatedly ignoring the rules. It is up to the president to determine any appropriate disciplinary action for workers who violate the law, and Trump declined to take action against Conway or the others.
In a statement about the Psaki complaint, CREW President Noah Bookbinder noted the flagrant and repeated violations of the Hatch Act by the Trump White House.
“While [Psaki’s] conduct does not come close to rising to the level of the outrageous offenses of the Trump administration, that does not mean we should be casual about compliance with an important ethics law,” Bookbinder said. “The Biden administration should not follow the Trump administration down that path.”