Acting HCFA Chief Resigns After Hatch Act Violation
Michael Hash, acting HCFA chief, resigned his position on Dec. 15 after government investigators said he had violated the Hatch Act, a federal law prohibiting political fund-raising by federal employees, the Washington Post reports. Last May, Hash hosted a fund-raiser for former neighbor Ron Strouse, a Democrat running for a House seat in Pennsylvania's 8th District. Hash contends that he did not realize the fund-raiser violated the law until later in the summer when the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee surveyed HHS political appointees "to find out how much time they were spending away from the job on campaign efforts." After Hash asked an HHS ethics officer if he needed to report the fund-raiser, Hash was told it was a violation and that he should report it to the Office of Special Counsel, an "independent, government agency that protects whistle-blowers and prosecutes Hatch Act violations." The Office of Special Counsel did not seek to prosecute Hash, but the Post reports that Hash "was forced to resign." OSC spokesperson Jane McFarland said, "It was an unwilling violation. I don't think there was any understanding of the restrictions he was placed under as a federal employee." HHS spokesperson Melissa Skolfield said that HHS Secretary Donna Shalala "has the highest respect" for Hash and that it is a "testament to his personal integrity that he voluntarily reported" the violation. Robert Berenson, "the No. 3 official" at HCFA will take over the agency until the Bush administration assumes control next month (Schmidt, Washington Post, 12/16).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.