As it turns out both O’Rielly and Ajit Pai will have to face questions regarding ethics after their recent appearances at CPAC.
Under the Trump administration, the Federal Communications Commission is strictly under Republican control.
Now, two members of the Federal Communications Commission belonging to the Republican party will have to face fresh accusations.
What are those accusations?
Those accusations basically point out that these two Republican members violated some rules.
In other words, they violated some government ethics rules with their appearances at CPAC.
Or Conservative Political Action Conference.
Ajit Pai, the current Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission received the NRA (National Rifle Association) Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire Award at the same Conservative Political Action Conference.
According to Walter Shaub, Ajit Pai violated government ethics rules by accepting the above-mentioned award.
Why should we give any consideration to what Walter Shaub says?
Well, his credentials include serving as the director of the United States Office of Government Ethics.
He served in that position for a period of four years from 2013 to 2017.
As of this moment in time, Ajit Pai did not publicly respond to the government ethics rules violation accusation.
Of course, Ajit Pai doesn’t work alone at the Federal Communications Commission.
He has a certain amount of help to carry out daily tasks.
Some of that help comes from people like Michael O’Rielly.
Who is he?
He is the current Federal Communications Commission Commissioner.
Last Friday, he called directly for a re-election.
A re-election of what?
According to O’Rielly, people should for the re-election of the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump.
He said that during his controversial appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
American Oversight, an advocacy group, came forward and asked for a thorough investigation of the Federal Communications Commission’s Commissioner.
American Oversight said that O’Rielly violated a government rule.
Which rule specifically?
According to American Oversight, he violated the rule that says government officials should not engage in partisan political activities while they are on duty.
Someone also asked O’Rielly a question on how conservatives could prevent the current regulatory ping-pong.
According to the questioner, this sort of a thing happened at the Federal Communications Commission regularly.
And especially when the balance of power shifted between Republicans and Democrats.
While serving as a member of the panel discussion, O’Rielly named several solutions.
He said that what people could do was to make sure that as conservatives they elected good people who would go on to work for the government.
In other words, people should select “good” people to both the US’s Senate and the House.
O’Rielly also said in his response that they should make sure that the current President of the country, Donald Trump, get re-elected.
However, O’Rielly’s spokesperson denied that O’Rielly engaged in any kind of advocacy.
One O’Rielly spokesperson also told Ars Technica that Commissioner O’Rielly only responded to a question that someone asked on how to stop the FCC from ping-ponging back and forth.
O’Rielly only tried his best to respond to the question in a very factual way so that he would not actually engage himself in any kind of advocacy.
What About Ajit Pai’s National Rifle Association Award?
Walter Shaub has also made accusations against Ajit Pai, the FCC chairman, of this National Rifle Award.
He did so with the help of a series of posts on Twitter.
Walter has pointed out that the US government standards of ethical conduct strictly prohibit anyone from accepting any gifts.
Or any other types of awards in many circumstances and situations.
He asked that he would like for someone to explain to him why the Federal Communications Commission violated ethics rules.
The Federal Communications Commission did violate rules.
Or at least it did by not advising its Chairman of the US government ethics rules.
According to Shaub, people should ask the Federal Communications Commission as to why the organization thought that the US ethics rules allowed the organization’s president to accept a gift that came in the form of an expensive and handmade gun from the National Rifle Association.
Shaub also pointed out that the National Rifle Association represented an entity whose interests Aji Pai could easily affect.
In fact, Shaub said that Aji Pai had already affected the National Rifle Association in many ways.
It is true that Ajit Pai could affect the National Rifle Association via the performance of his positional and/or official duties.
Shaub then asked his followers if he was missing something important?
With that said, we have to mention that there are exceptions to those US government ethics rules.
But those exceptions clearly lay out the situations in which those ethical rules don’t apply.
In other words, the exceptions to ethical standards only apply when the person in question cannot directly or indirectly affect the interest of the gift giver.
But that is clearly not the case with the Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai and the National Rifle Association.
The National Rifle Association has apparently supported Ajit Pai’s official decision of eliminating all net neutrality rules.
In other words, Shaub thinks that the National Rifle Association has given the indication that it understands that Ajit Pai can affect the organization’s interests.
Even with that, the current exceptions only apply when the situation involves a bona fide public service award.
Shaub wrote on Twitter that the National Rifle Association award clearly did not qualify for those exceptions.
He also said that even beyond the normal Standards of Conduct, Ajit Pai had actually signed an ethics pledge.
That pledge basically barred him from receiving gifts from entities such as lobby groups and their lobbyists.
There is a slight problem with the pledge though.
And the problem is legitimate.
The problem is that no one really knows what the pledge means.
After all is said and done, the White House decides how that pledge works.
And it is still unclear if the old Obama pledge covers Paid or the much weaker Trump pledge covers him.
Shaub is clear on the fact that the National Rifle Associations represented a registered lobbying organization.
Reporters at Ars Technica did contact Ajit Pai’s office to ask about Shaub’s recent accusations yesterday.
As expected, they did not get a response.
As soon as they do, we’ll update this post accordingly.
Some say that the Federal Communications Commission’s Chairman Ajit Pai did not have any information about the award beforehand.
And that the National Rifle Association people caught him by surprise when they announced the award from him on stage.
But what was the actual reward?
The actual reward was, as reports describe it, an original Kentucky handmade long gun.
But according to all reports, Ajit Pai didn’t actually receive the Kentucky handmade long gun last Friday when he attended CPAC.
Carolyn Meadows, a National Rifle Association member, actually said during the presentation that they could not bring the gun to the stage.
She also noted that they would house the Kentucky handmade gun in the National Rifle Association’s museum.
The museum would also hold a plaque with Pai’s name on it in order to honor him.
During the conference, she also said that whenever Ajit Pai could receive the gun, they would give it to him.
The Federal Communications Commission voted earlier this year to eliminate all net neutrality rules.
Some reports are saying that eliminating net neutrality rules is the reason why Ajit Pai “won” the award from the National Rifle Association.
Dan Schneider, who is the Executive Director of American Conservative Union also had something to say.
During the award presentation, he told the gathered audience that Ajit Pai, as everyone would already know, saved the internet.
Shaub also recently made use of Twitter to shine some light on another issue.
He said that whenever a gift’s value exceeded the amount $200, the Federal Communications Commission had to make an officially written determination of whether the organization would allow the gift.
Shaub suggested that he had no doubts that the gun would have a value more than $200.
Hence, assuming the gun was worth more than $200, Shaub asked for the Federal Communications Commission’s written analysis.
He also said that people should know that rules and regulations require the Federal Communications Commission to issue one.
The Hatch Act And O’Rielly
American Oversight, a legal watchdog, came into existence sometime last year.
Austin Ever, a former State Department lawyer, is the person who is leading the legal watchdog.
He recently said that O’Rielly’s comment, which he considered pro-Trump, violated the US Hatch Act.
Over at American Oversight, he wrote that the Hatch Act explicitly and clearly prohibited such behavior.
What kind of behavior?
The kind of behavior where federal employees just help themselves to engage in partisan political activities.
According to the Hatch Act, they can’t do that while they are on duty.
O’Reilly appeared at the Conservative Political Action conference.
That is a fact.
The problem with him appearing at the conference is that he went there in his official capacity.
What is that capacity?
Well, he represents the commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission.
The Federal Communications Commission is a very important government body.
It is the organization that has to oversee the regulation of news media.
And also the internet.
O’Rielly’s call for President Trump’s reelection violated many rules.
Like, the ones that OSC (Office of Special Counsel) issues regarding Presidents and federal employees.
O’Rielly directly violated those guidelines and rules.
The Office of Special Counsel has clear guidance notes.
It says that President Donald Trump has officially filed the necessary paperwork with the Federal Election Commission.
That means, he has already established the fact that he will run as a candidate in the upcoming 2020 US Presidential elections.
This also means another thing.
That thing is that all federal employees are prohibited from certain things.
Certain things like expressly advocating against or for Trump’s reelection in two years.
They can’t do that.
Not while they are on duty.
And not when they are present in their workplace environment.
This is what the Office of Special Counsel says in its guidance notes.
Evers also noted that the Federal Communications Commission’s Commissioner O’Rielly showed naked partisanship.
And hence fundamentally undermined the independence that everyone expects the FCC to have at the core of its heart.
For clarity’s sake, O’Rielly hasn’t really received an official complaint.
That is what his spokesperson told reporters from Ars Technica.
But that doesn’t mean O’Rielly will get off the hook.
American Oversight has already sent a letter to the United States Office of Special Counsel.
The legal watchdog has asked the United States Office of Special Counsel for an investigation.
And if that investigation turns up something illegal then it has also asked for appropriate punishment.
Evers also wrote in his letter that Commissioner O’Rielly directly and clearly violated the US Hatch Act.
In the letter to the United States Office of Special Counsel, he mentions a number of other things as well.
Other things such as a request, hoping that the OSC would fully investigate O’Rielly’s misconduct.
While requesting, he also said that American Oversight did not believe that the matter presented a difficult question.
Or a difficult answer to that question.
Furthermore, American Oversight urged the OSC to recommend or impose a sanction.
This sanction should help to take account of the Trump administration’s repeated transgressions regarding the US Hatch Act.
The sanction should also take care of Commissioner O’Rielly who clearly violated the black-and-white recommendation and guidance from the Official of Special Counsel.
Now, no one really needs to question the fact that there is a certain section of the US population who doesn’t really like Ajit Pai.
Perhaps they have their reasons.
But the thing readers should understand here is, there isn’t much we can blame Ajit Pai in this case.
If someone wants to present Ajit Pai with an award but without Ajit’s knowledge, then there isn’t much Ajit can do.
Add to that the fact that he, in fact, did not get anything at the conference.
So what is it that Ajit Pai did wrong?
Ajit Pai has done a lot of wrong in his long career at the Federal Communications Commission.
He has killed net neutrality rules.
And he has also removed many other consumer protections when it comes to the internet in this country.
But accepting an award that he had no knowledge about isn’t on the list.
Of course, there is the other side as well.
Ethics work in a way that they impose affirmative duties on particular people.
Hence, for people like Ajit Pai, excuses such as having no knowledge about the situation doesn’t really work.
According to some, Ajit Pai can’t just say that he did not know he couldn’t receive an award while on duty.
Generally speaking, it is the responsibility of the concerned person under ethical duties to refrain and reject offers.
Especially those offers which, if the person accepts, might violate his/her ethical duties.
The whole situation basically put Ajit Pai in a difficult and awkward moment.
But Ajit Pai has spent years on the Federal Communications Commission board now.
He should have learned by now on how to respond to awkward things when they do come his way.
Then there is the other problem.
Ajit Pai seems to have rather clearly violated some ethics rules.
But will he face the consequences that come with violating those rules?
That is highly unlikely.
One could argue that there may be laws which mandate him to give up the award.
Or perhaps even pay a fine.
O’Rielly factual response is also very interesting.
He could have done better by noting that the President of the United States controls the vast majority of the voting block for the Federal Communications Commission.
Moreover, in order to prevent the ping-ponging, currently, only one solution could work.
And that solution is a single party remaining in power.
Of course, O’Rielly went way past that with his response.
So will he have to endure any substantial penalty?
In a worse case scenario, O’Rielly will have to give up his position as a commissioner.
And then President Trump would simply appoint one or two of his favorite picks.