Housing and Urban Development Secretary and potential Democratic vice-presidential Julian Castro violated federal law when he made a personal political statement regarding Hillary Clinton’s candidacy in an interview earlier this year, according to a federal watchdog report released on Monday.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel released the seven page report that said that Castro violated the Hatch Act during a Yahoo News interview with Katie Couric on April 4 by sharing his political views while on official business.
Initially in the interview, Castro discussed HUD’s new policy to increase Internet access to children and the difficulty of attaining housing loans. Castro then responded to a question regarding Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Secretary Castro’s statements during the interview impermissibly mixed his personal political views with official agency business, despite his efforts to clarify that some answers were being given in his personal capacity,” the OSC report said. It is now President Obama’s decision to take action on the violation.
The report also stated that Castro did not have any intention of violating any federal law.
“While a violation of the Hatch Act occurred, Secretary Sebelius’ statements would have been permissible if they had been made in her personal capacity,” the report said.
During the interview, he called Hillary Clinton the most experienced candidate and also criticized Republicans, saying that they get to “pick and choose who gets opportunity,” and that outsiders such as gays and Muslims don’t get that opportunity.
“My hope is that whoever does get asked will take that decision very seriously. I don’t believe that’s going to be me,” Castro said when asked about about being a potential vice presidential nominee.
In response to the the reports findings, Castro said that he thought he avoided violating the act during the interview, but did acknowledge that it was unclear that he moved from a professional to a personal capacity. He agreed with the OSC’s findings.
“My aim was to make clear to anyone viewing the broadcast that, when answering those direct questions regarding candidates, I was not acting in my official capacity,” Castro said in the report. “I now have watched the recording of the interview and appreciate that, while my intention was to avoid any blurring of roles and make clear that I was not speaking as a representative of HUD, that fact may not have been obvious to viewers.”
Castro responded to the OSC’s report by writing, “I offered my opinion to the interviewer after making it clear that I was articulating my personal view and not an official position. At the time, I believed that this disclaimer was what was required by the Hatch Act. However, your analysis provides that it was not sufficient.”
Castro said after the report that he and his executive team will provide training for top agency officials to prevent these types of violations from happening again.