To the editor:
Republican Representative Francis Rooney caused quite a stir this last week when he made the bold statement that he wanted leaders at the Department of Justice and FBI to “purge” officials who are politically biased against our president, Donald John Trump. Those anti-Trump political zealots grasping at straws claimed that the word “purge” was a dirty word (claiming it is often associated with extreme war regimes) that should not be used in present day sophisticated and urbane language. The “Snowflakes” and those following their agenda must still seriously think that Hillary won the presidential election of 2016. Let’s look at the real meaning of the word “purge” and how it relates to the Hatch Act, a little known piece of legislation which still remains so important to all members of our Republic.
The Hatch Act of 1939, officially an act to prevent pernicious political activities, is a United States federal law whose main provision prohibits employees in the executive branch of the federal government, except the president, vice-president, and certain designated high-level officials from engaging in some forms of political activity. It went into law on August 2, 1939. The law was named for Democrat Senator Carl Hatch of New Mexico. It was most recently amended in 1940.
The Act was brought into effect by Republicans and dissident Democrats who together publicized evidence that Democrat politicians were consulted on the appointment of WPA (Works Progress Administration) workers by the Senate Campaign Expenditures Committee, headed by Senator Morris Sheppard, a Texas Democrat (true bipartisan legislation). Many elected officials in both parties were determined to take action against the growing power of the WPA and its chief administrator, Harry Hopkins, an intimate of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. At the time Roosevelt was struggling to purge the Democrat Party of its more conservative members. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Due to constant political pressure from both sides of the isle, Roosevelt signed this important legislation (The Hatch Act) on the last day he could do so.
The Hatch Act bars state and local government employees from running for public office if any federal funds support the position. The Merit Systems Protection Board and the Office of Special Counsel are responsible for enforcement of the Hatch Act. That is the problem. The Special Counsel is called upon to enforce legislation that is contrary to their own political position.
The word purge, used by the gutsy Republican Representative, Francis Rooney, is a transitive verb, meaning among other things, to get rid of a contrary political alignment within one’s own political party. The word, purge, does not mean sending these public officials to the guillotine, it simply means relieving them of their paid government jobs that were supposed to be apolitical in nature.
Jon Larsen Shudlick