Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke violated the Hatch Act when he tweeted a photo of him wearing “Make America Great Again!” socks last year, according to government investigators.
The Washington Post on Thursday published a letter from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which oversees Hatch Act compliance, to the watchdog organization Campaign for Accountability in December 2018 confirming that Zinke’s tweet was a violation of the Hatch Act.
“Wearing or displaying items with campaign slogans or images of candidates constitutes political activity for purposes of the Hatch Act,” the letter reads. “Accordingly, Secretary Zinke engaged in political activity when he wore the above-referenced socks.”
In June 2018, Zinke tweeted the photo and captioned it with “Breaking in new socks on a hike with the governors today” before he was scheduled to speak to the Western Governors Association.
Critics pointed out that the photo was likely a violation of the Hatch Act, which bars federal employees like Zinke from engaging in political activity while on duty.
A few hours later, he deleted the photo and then re-posted it with the “Make America Great Again!” text blacked out.
“Earlier I tweeted a pic of my new socks not realizing it had what could be viewed as a political slogan,” Zinke tweeted. “I’ve deleted it and apologize for the mistake.”
It appears the ex-secretary has deleted that tweet as well.