DeVos would become one of the most high-profile Trump officials known to have been investigated for violating the Hatch Act. Depending on what OSC finds, she would be the second member of the Trump Cabinet to be found to have violated the law. At least 12 Trump senior officials have violated the Hatch Act, according to the OSC, the independent agency that probes possible violations. In most cases, the office decided that the violation was minor enough to merit only a warning letter. Only one case, that of former senior counselor Kellyanne Conway, was sent to President Donald Trump for action, and he didn’t act on it.

DeVos criticized Biden on Fox in the interview, which is also posted on the Education Department’s YouTube page, in early September when she was asked about Biden’s promise to roll back DeVos’ school choice policies, some of which he previously supported in the late 1990s.

“Today he’s turned his back on the kids that we’re talking about and he’s turned his face in favor of the teachers union and what they have to say and what they have to demand and it’s really shameful,” she told the interviewer. The Education Department also blasted out a link to the Fox News clip with the attack on Biden to an official email distribution list under the heading “From the Desk of The Secretary.”

The Hatch Act prohibits most political activity by federal employees, but the Trump administration hasn’t paid much attention to it, even hosting parts of the Republican National Convention at the White House with multiple Cabinet members giving primetime addresses.

Prior to the phone call, Johnson had emailed Peterson and told him that it “will open a file to address this matter,” a routine step that it takes with every complaint but which doesn’t indicate that an investigation is underway.

Angela Morabito, an Education Department spokesperson, said the complaint was “a classic statement” of an allegation not being based in fact.

“The Secretary was asked to respond to oft-repeated criticism of her and her policies, and she defended her policies, including discussing the history of that criticism,” she said in a statement. “The Hatch Act does not prohibit that kind of exchange with a journalist. Case closed. Of course, we will cooperate with OSC, should they choose to open an investigation of this frivolous complaint.”

Zachary Kurz, an OSC spokesperson, said in a statement that “OSC generally cannot comment on or confirm the status of Hatch Act investigations.” Johnson didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Checks and Balances Project has triggered two inspector general investigations into potential influence peddling during the Keystone Pipeline debate and an FBI probe into influence peddling in an Arizona public utility commission. It’s largely funded by the 501(c)(4) Renew American Prosperity, but it also receives money from clean energy groups and donors.

The Office of Special Counsel is an independent agency tasked with investigating the Hatch Act, and the office is not affiliated with special counsel Robert Mueller‘s prior investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Depending on the case and person, OSC can discipline staffers, while others go to the Merit Systems Protection Board, and still more go to an employee’s supervisor, like Trump for Conway.

Prior to 2012, Hatch Act violators, who can be political appointees or career civil servants, often faced a severe punishment: getting fired. But now they may face a variety of lesser penalties, including fines, demotions, suspensions or being barred from federal government work for a period of time, although Trump appointees have generally experienced severe punishment.

During the Obama administration, two cabinet secretaries were found to have violated the Hatch Act: Housing and Urban Development chief Julián Castro and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

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