Who knew it was illegal for a federal employee to run for political office. This column wasn’t aware of that law. Neither was the independent candidate to replace disgraced Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. in next month’s Special Election. And for his part, the independent Marcus Lewis isn’t backing down. He’s fighting it.
US Office of Special Counsel
As detailed on the federal agency’s website, ‘The US Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency. Our basic authorities come from four federal statutes: the Civil Service Reform Act, the Whistleblower Protection Act, the Hatch Act, and the Uniformed Services Employment & Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).’ Upon further investigation, it becomes apparent that the number one focus of the agency is the much-needed protection of whistleblowers from retribution by corrupt government officials.
But another mission of the staff is to prosecute government employees who are in violation of the Hatch Act – a law partially aimed at removing corruption, patronage, and influence-peddling from America’s election system. Also according to the US Office of Special Counsel, they are tasked with monitoring and correcting the behavior of all federal employees. That includes banning their involvement in America’s political process.
Under the section of prosecuting claims of ‘prohibited personnel practices’, the agency guidelines consider it a crime for any federal employee to, ‘coerce the political activity of any person.’ Of course, based on that guideline, it could be considered illegal for any federal employee to volunteer for a political campaign and simply request that voters vote for a particular candidate or even encourage them to vote at all.
Marcus Lewis – independent candidate for Congress
In November 2012, just as now, Marcus Lewis was the independent candidate for Illinois’ 2nd District US Congressional seat. While most independents are lucky to crack the one percent mark, Lewis shocked Chicago’s Democratic Machine by garnering an impressive and respectable 40,006 votes in an election with a low voter turnout. Lewis hopes to build on that success and shock the Machine once again in April 2013.
But one thing may be standing in his way – the US Office of Special Counsel. According to the complaint filed by the agency against Mr. Lewis, of which this column has a copy, Marcus Lewis is in serious violation of the law simply because he is a mailman running for Congress. But who is Marcus Lewis and why is he running for Congress? One simple story from Mr. Lewis probably provides more insight into his character and motivation than the millions of dollars in campaign commercials ever could about his Machine-backed opponent Robin Kelly.
“This picture depicts my brother, Martin Lewis, homeless and left behind,” independent Congressional candidate Marcus Lewis explains on his campaign website, “He will not come and live with me. I have tried everything I can but he keeps saying he is alright. I bring him meals, buy clothes for him to wear, I give him money. I am doing all I can do to help remedy his situation.” Ironically, Martin Lewis’ story begins in medical school where he and a number of other black and Hispanic students exposed an academic scandal that allegedly involved a white teacher and white administrator cheating on behalf of white students.
The students who raised the complaint, including Martin Lewis, were forced out of medical school. Today while that same teacher is now head of the medical school, that same promising medical student is the homeless man in the image above, and Marcus Lewis’ brother. As the candidate says, he is just one more example of too many Americans left behind by the system. Marcus Lewis is running for Congress to give a voice to those unjustly wronged, ignored and forgotten souls.
Special Counsel, Petitioner, v. Marcus Lewis, Respondent
According to the lawsuit, nobody filed a complaint against Marcus Lewis for his attempt to run as a citizen-candidate for Congress without quitting his day job as a postal worker. The agency allegedly came across Mr. Lewis’ campaign website and filed the complaint themselves without any outside pressure. Their complaint reads, ‘The Hatch Act, 5 USC 7321-7326, restricts the political activity of federal employees. Section 7323(a)(3) of Title 5 of the United States Code and 5 CFR 734.304 prohibit covered federal employees from running for the nomination or as a candidate for election to a partisan political office.’
The three-count lawsuit lists 30 specific examples or instances over the past six months where Mr. Lewis was in violation of the Hatch Act or was warned by federal attorneys. The list culminated with the federal agency notifying the independent Congressional candidate that he must either resign his candidacy and cease all campaign activities or quit his job.
On October 22, 2012, and in the midst of a hard-fought campaign against a sitting Congressman under federal criminal indictment, Mr. Lewis informed the agency that he didn’t intend to do either. A law-abiding man, he insists he wasn't casually thumbing his nose at the rules. Instead, he doesn't believe it's a fair law or being enforced properly. In fact, he's appealing the suit and has even found past precedents that would appear to back up his argument.
With that election behind them and a new Special Election scheduled only six months later for April 2013 to replace the just-resigned Jesse Jackson Jr., Marcus Lewis again announced his intent to run as an independent candidate to represent his Congressional District.
The federal agency quickly responded, as detailed in the suit, ‘On February 7, 2013, OSC issued Respondent Lewis a letter that warned him that his current candidacy in the 2013 special general election violates the Hatch Act. Further, OSC advised him to come into compliance with the law withdrawing his candidacy or resigning from his employment with the USPS.’
Marcus Lewis fights on
It’s enlightening that one of the evidence exhibits being used against Marcus Lewis is his own email. It inadvertently explains why it’s impossible for most regular, hard-working Americans to quit their job just to spend a few months pursuing the noble effort of representing their community in Washington. Lewis’ email, which has been introduced as evidence against him, proclaimed, ‘Ladies & Gentlemen, it’s plain and simple. Your struggle is My struggle, whether it’s to keep farm land in the family or find and keep a job. I understand. I have been there. To stave off a foreclosure notice or struggle to keep the lights on for another month, I have been there.’
It’s obvious that the intent of the Hatch Act is to prosecute corruption, bribery and to protect whistleblowers who work for the federal government from retribution, not to deny millions of regular Americans the right to run for political office. And that brings up some additional questions.
How do US Senators like John McCain and Barack Obama run for President? They were both federal employees and neither one quit their job to run. How is it that Democratic and Republican political campaigns are riddled with federal employees participating in the election process, seemingly in violation of the law?
And most curiously of all – where was the Office of Special Counsel when during the very same race, then-Congressman Jackson and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi were discovered to have used taxpayer money and dozens of federal employees at a Chicago campaign event while they were not only still employed by the taxpayers, but on the clock as well? It’s the same District, same community, same people, but opposing campaigns and opposite actions by the same federal agency.
Read the July 5, 2012 edition of this column title, ‘Pelosi, Jackson, Rainbow PUSH in Taxpayer Funds Scandal’ for details.
While powerful Democratic Party politicians and armies of Democratic Party federal employees are caught red-handed falsifying timesheets, mileage forms and expense reports so they can participate in a Democratic Party fundraiser and endorsement rally, the Office of Special Counsel doesn’t find it worthy of prosecution. But one regular, working class family man and citizen-candidate attempts to run for Congress against that very same corrupt and convicted powerful Democratic politician, and the Office of Special Counsel is prosecuting him to the fullest extent of the law.
Something seems wrong with this three-count lawsuit against a man for simply running for Congress, and it isn’t just a law that bars millions of regular Americans from running for office. For his part, independent candidate Marcus Lewis will face off against the Republican and Democratic Party nominees to replace the disgraced former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. on April 9, 2013.
Lewis has an uphill battle against the Democratic Machine’s Robin Kelly. She won the February primary handily with the help of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Super PAC and millions in spending on attack ads against her opponents. Kelly is also refusing to debate Lewis and the Republican, instead relying on New York money and another multi-million-dollar Big Apple ad blitz if the race should suddenly tighten up.
For more information on Marcus Lewis’ campaign for Congress, visit his website at MarcusLewisForCongress2013.org.
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