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The March 18 White House press briefing, where HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge spoke on Ohio's Senate race. Photo: Michael Reynolds/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

An independent federal investigative agency said Thursday that Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia Fudge violated the Hatch Act in March when the former Ohio congresswoman weighed in on the state's 2022 Senate election.

Why it matters: It appears to be the first Hatch Act violation under the Biden administration, per Politico. The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity.

How we got here: In a White House press briefing on March 18, Fudge initially declined to comment on who should take over her district's open congressional seat. A reporter then asked about the Senate race in Ohio.

  • Fudge, a Democrat, named two friends: Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, who were both considering a run at the time. Ryan has since launched a Senate bid, while Whaley is campaigning for Ohio governor.
  • "I mean, I think we’re going to put a good person in that race, no matter who we choose," she said. "I think we have a good shot at it. I know people have written off Ohio. I haven’t written off Ohio. I believe we can win the Senate race."
  • Americans for Public Trust, a conservative watchdog, promptly filed a complaint about her comments.
  • The day after the briefing, Fudge said in a statement she should not have answered the question.

What they're saying: "By stating, for example, that 'we have a good shot at it' and 'I believe we can win the Senate race,' Secretary Fudge showed support for the Democratic Party with respect to the Ohio Senate race while speaking in her official capacity," Ana Galindo-Marrone, chief of OSC's Hatch Act Unit, said in a letter to Americans for Public Trust.

  • The chief said HUD ethics officials had "counseled" Fudge on adhering to the Hatch Act and that the case is now closed since Fudge expressed remorse.
  • "Please note that Secretary Fudge has been advised that if in the future she engages in prohibited political activity we will consider such activity to be a willful and knowing violation of the law that could result in further action."

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to clarify that Nan Whaley is running for governor, not the Senate seat.

Go deeper

Trump-backed Mike Carey wins GOP primary in Ohio's 15th district

Mike Carey. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Coal lobbyist Mike Carey won the Republican nomination for Ohio's 15th congressional district on Tuesday, AP reports.

Why it matters: Carey became the favorite in the race after former President Trump endorsed him in June. The seat was previously held by Steve Stivers, who left in May to become president and CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

Virginia energy giant quietly boosts McAuliffe

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaks during a campaign rally on Oct. 15 in Henrico, Virginia. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe has sworn off money from the Richmond company Dominion Energy. But the utility has found more subtle ways to back McAuliffe's gubernatorial bid, records show.

Driving the news: Dominion's political action committee has donated $200,000 to a murky political group called Accountability Virginia PAC, a group with ties to prominent Democrats that's been running ads attacking Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin from the right.

3 hours ago - Technology

Race and technology in America

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The technology industry is famously determined to change the world — but its efforts to diversify its workforce and remove bias from its products haven't changed nearly enough.