Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s choice of socks at a Mount Rushmore event violated federal law, according to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC).
The socks, which featured President Donald Trump and the words “Make America Great Again,” ran afoul of the Hatch Act, a piece of ethics legislation designed to prevent government resources from being used for private economic or political gain.
Zinke had worn the socks during an official visit to Mount Rushmore and posted a tweet prominently displaying them to his official Twitter account. In response, the Campaign for Accountability, a liberal ethics watchdog group filed a complaint with the OSC, after which Zinke deleted the tweet and apologized.
The Washington Post was first to report the OSC’s determination.
A letter sent by the head of the Hatch Act unit of the OSC, Ana Galindo-Marrone, to the Campaign for Accountability concurred with the watchdog group’s complaint. OSC stopped short of a penalty, however, opting to issue warning instead.
The ethics complaint was part of a broader atmosphere of impropriety that eventually led to Zinke’s resignation from the Trump administration and the confirmation of his deputy, David Bernhardt, to the position in April.
Just days after his confirmation, however, a new Democrat-backed ethics investigation into Bernhardt was started, along with six other investigations into senior staff at the Department of the Interior.
Last month, The Daily Caller published a story that detailed an elderly bureaucrat’s struggles with OSC because of the official portraits of Trump and first lady Melania she hung (or tried to hang) in her office. OSC ruled that the placement of “I Voted” stickers on the portraits made the action a Hatch Act violation even though existing guidance dictated that pictures taken in an official activity were exempt from Hatch Act scrutiny.