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Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

House Homeland Security chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) sent a letter to the Office of Special Counsel Wednesday urging an ethics investigation into acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf after he participated in a naturalization ceremony aired at the Republican National Convention.

Why it matters: Thompson alleges that Wolf violated the Hatch Act, which restricts federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity but does not apply to the president or vice president. The Office of Special Counsel is the independent agency that enforces the Hatch Act.

What they're saying: "This is an unprecedented politicization of the naturalization ceremony – an official function of the Department of Homeland Security," Thompson wrote.

  • "Mr. Wolf's participation appears to constitute engaging in political activity while acting in an official capacity."
  • "It also sets a bad example for the Department’s 240,000 employees who are required to comply with the Hatch Act. Accordingly, I urge you to investigate Mr. Wolf’s participation in this event to determine whether it violated the law."

The big picture: The Hatch Act hasn't been particularly effective in the Trump era.

  • The Office of Special Counsel determined last year that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway repeatedly violated the Hatch Act and recommended she be removed from the federal workforce, but no action was enforced.
  • During the RNC, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered his address from Jerusalem, which has prompted a separate Hatch Act investigation led by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas).
  • The administration has denied that President Trump's decision to deliver his RNC speeches from the White House is a violation of the Hatch Act. On Wednesday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows downplayed Hatch Act concerns, telling Politico: "Nobody outside of the Beltway really cares."

Axios has reached out to the Department of Homeland Security for comment but has not heard back.

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Nov 13, 2020 - Sports

The Woj of esports is a free agent

Jacob (right) at the 2018 Esports Awards. Photo: Jacob Wolf

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski breaks NBA news with his patented "Woj bombs." Jacob Wolf does the same thing for esports. Nickname: "Wolf bombs."

Driving the news: ESPN is shutting down its entire esports division, part of the latest rounds of layoffs the company announced last week.

Biden directs federal government to become carbon neutral by 2050

President Biden speaking to reporters outside of the White House on Dec. 8.

President Biden signed an executive order Wednesday that requires the federal government achieve multiple goals related to reducing its carbon emissions, including achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

Why it matters: Meeting the objectives of the order would require a massive investment by the federal government to buy electric vehicles, upgrade buildings and change how it procures electricity.

Updated 2 hours ago - Technology

Instagram's boss faces Congress' questions on harm to teens

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for WIRED

The head of Instagram will find himself in Congress' crosshairs for the first time Wednesday in the one area lawmakers have shown they are willing to pass tech regulations — protecting youngsters online.

Why it matters: Republicans and Democrats have found common ground in grilling tech companies on how their products harm children, especially after revelations in The Wall Street Journal about Instagram's potential harm to the mental health of teen girls.