On Monday, July 14, the House Oversight Committee linked embattled former IRS agent Lois Lerner with yet another erased hard drive connected with a federal criminal investigation. In a letter to the chairman of the Federal Election Commission, which can be found on the House Oversight Committee’s website, relates to April Sands, an employee of the Federal Election Commission during the 2012 presidential campaign.
The letter details how Ms. Sands posted twitter messages during work hours “soliciting or endorsing political contributions to Democratic candidates, including President Obama.” The letter then provides screen shots of several of Ms. Sands’ tweets from an account known as “Reign of April:”
July 18, 2012: "Our #POTUS's birthday is August 4. He'll be 51. I'm donating at least $51 to give him the best birthday present ever: a second term. #p2"
Aug. 21, 2012: "Donate to @clairecmc [Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.)] today. RT @HuffPostPol BREAKING: Todd Akin[Republican challenger to McCaskill] is not dropping out of his Senate race, he tells Huckabee. #MOSen' #p2"
Sept. 18, 2012: "Romney is toast. But POTUS can't do it all on his own. Don't forget Congressional races. We need a Democratic sweep. Stay focused. #p2"
June 4, 2012: "I just don't understand how anyone but straight white men can vote Republican. What kind of delusional rhetorical [sic] does one use? #p2"
May 1, 2012: "Dear every single Republican ever, When will U learn that Barack Hussein Obama is simply smarter than U? Signed, #Obama2012 #p2"
Aug. 25, 2012: "If you're still calling yourself a Republican after the #WarOnWomen, their stated RNC platform, & Birtherism, you are my enemy. Done. #p2"
All Americans enjoy the free speech protection of the First Amendment, but unfortunately for Ms. Sands, her political advocacy ran afoul of the Hatch Act, a 1939 law which, according to the House Oversight letter, “prohibits Executive Branch employees from engaging in partisan political activity while on official duty at a federal workplace. Certain employees, including FEC employees, are further restricted by the Hatch Act from engaging in partisan political campaigns or management. Additionally, federal law makes it a crime for a federal employee ‘to solicit or receive a donation of money or a thing of value in connection with a Federal, state or local election, while in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties….’”
The House letter further states that Ms. Sands admitted to Office of the Special Counsel (OSC) that she had violated the Hatch Act by conducting political activity and soliciting donations “via webcam from an FEC conference room… while on duty.” The FEC Office of the Inspector General (OIG) sought to prosecute Ms. Sands, but the Oversight letter notes that before the OIG could seize Ms. Sands’ hard drive, the FEC “recycled” the computer. Without the hard drive, the OIG was unable to prove that Ms. Sands’ political activities were carried out on a government computer and the U.S. Attorney made the decision not to prosecute.
April Sands, the letter notes, “worked for former IRS official Lois Lerner when Ms. Lerner served as the FEC’s Associate General Counsel for Enforcement.” Lerner worked for the FEC from 1981 through 2001.
In 2013, the Weekly Standard and National Review reported that Lerner had a history of partisanship and harassment during her tenure at the FEC. Also in 2013, Judicial Watch, a nonpartisan group focused on government transparency, announced that it had obtained emails between then Director of Exempt Organizations at the IRS, Lois Lerner, and enforcement attorneys at the FEC in which she “provided detailed, confidential information concerning the tax exempt application status and returns of conservative groups to the FEC in violation of federal law.” In May 2014, Lerner was held in contempt of Congress by a bipartisan House vote.
At this point, according to the Oversight letter, “it is unclear whether Ms. Sands ever communicated with Ms. Lerner after Ms. Lerner moved to the IRS; however the [Oversight] Committee is aware that Ms. Lerner maintained communication with some former FEC colleagues.”