Hatch Act complaint filed against Jim Tracy as fundraiser host

John Anderson of Bell Buckle, a retired teacher and unsuccessful candidate for the 4th Congressional District nomination in 2014, says he has filed a complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel that accuses former state Sen. Jim Tracy of violating the federal “Hatch Act” by hosting a fundraiser for state Senate candidate Shane Reeves.

Tracy resigned the Senate District 14 seat in November to become state director of rural development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He has endorsed Reeves as his successor in the special election to fill the seat and, according to Anderson’s complaint, served as host for a Reeves fundraiser three days after taking the federal job in President Trump’s administration.

Here’s Anderson’s press release:

An official complaint has been filed with the federal Office of Special Counsel charging Jim Tracy, newly appointed U.S. Department of Agriculture Director of Rural Development for Tennessee, with violation of the Hatch Act. Tracy recently hosted a political fundraising event for Republican candidate Shane Reeves, thereby violating federal law.

The complaint was filed by retired schoolteacher John Anderson of Bell Buckle.

Reeves is a political associate and protege of Tracy and is running with Tracy’s support for Tracy’s abandoned seat in the Tennessee state Senate.

In an email sent out by Reeves’ Campaign Finance Director Rachel Barrett on November 7, 2017, recipients were solicited to attend a November 16 campaign fundraising event for Reeves hosted by Tracy.

According to the Tennessee USDA Rural Development website, Tracy officially became a federal employee on November 13, 2017. His hosting a fundraiser for Reeves three days later was therefore a violation of federal law.

Under the Hatch Act, federal employees may attend a political fundraising event but may not host one. In the email, Tracy is named as the “host” of the fundraiser. The subject line of the email names Tracy as the one inviting potential donors to the event, the email was copied to Tracy so that he was aware of its contents, and Barrett is a professional fundraiser whom Tracy has employed in the past.

Barrett was in charge of fundraising for Jim Tracy’s failed 2014 bid for a seat in Congress. Reeves was Tracy’s finance chairman for that campaign.

The Hatch Act prohibits a federal employee from soliciting campaign contributions for a partisan political candidate. On its official website, the federal Office of Special Counsel is explicit: A federal employee may attend a fundraising event, but “hosting” (the word used by OSC) such an event violates the Hatch Act.

UPDATE: In response to a request for comment from Tracy, USDA Spokesperson Jackie Susmann sent this emailed response: “This matter has been brought to the attention of USDA and we are looking into it.”

Note: The OSC website has an explanation of how the Hatch Act applies to federal employees HERE and there is a line saying “covered employees” cannot host a political fundraiser, though they can make political donations. And, as a personal disclosure, the old guy here has known both neighbor Anderson and longtime Sen. Tracy for years – both, I believe on a generally friendly basis.

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