USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue violated the Hatch Act in August because he encouraged voters to support the president’s re-election campaign while promoting food boxes. The event took place in Mills River, North Carolina, and was designed to promote the Farmers to Families Food Box Program.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel sent a letter to Perdue saying the ag secretary has to reimburse the federal government for the cost of the trip to North Carolina. President Trump attended the event, during which Perdue said the people lined up along the motorcade route were “part of those forgotten people that voted for you in 2016.”
Perdue also told the president that those same people will vote for him for four more years in 2020. “They understand, under your administration, they’ve not been forgotten,” he added, “and this program is a great example of that.” The Hatch Act bars federal employees, even Cabinet members, from engaging in political activity while at work. “Taken as a whole, Secretary Perdue’s comments during the event encouraged those present, and those watching remotely, to vote for President Trump’s re-election,” the Hatch Act unit’s chief counsel wrote in the letter.
The Ag Department didn’t respond to The Hill’s request for comment and didn’t provide an estimate of the cost of the trip that Perdue must now reimburse.