Wild Horse Education

Hatch Act; Intention, practice and selective reality (editorial)


As wild horse advocates we experience inequity in practice just like the wild ones face on the range. (photo Laura Leigh, Owyhee 2017)

Editorial, Laura Leigh

As an advocate for the “wild” wild horse I often find myself in an odd reality; the one I stand in on the range does not match the ones being perpetuated by public relations firms, government officials and political campaigns. This reality extends into areas that can simply be called “abuse of power,” clean across the board, from million dollar non profits wielding dollars to federal officials that are very selective in how they interpret law into practice to forward one agenda or another for either an entity that puts dollars into their pockets, solidifies a political alliance, a family member or one simply based on prioritizing the interest of their “buds.”

One example of the amazing hypocrisy is the way the Hatch Act is wielded. (I know a lot of government employees read my website and I suggest you brush up on “the Hatch.”)

For WHE readers I am going to make todays “rant” simple to understand when coupled with todays headlines. I’m going to keep my ire limited to Hatch and not all the other regulations I have documented tossed in the trash bin when they interfere with personal agenda.

In a nutshell prohibited behavior, according to the Hatch Act, include such things as holding public office while still employed, managing a partisan political campaign or taking part in any activities that attempt to sway a person’s vote in a partisan election. Civil servants are prohibited from publicly taking a political side, but must remain neutral always, when in their public capacities.

Mike Pence, as Vice President, is an elected official and an endorsement of a candidate for political office is not prohibited. But what about Ryan Zinke, the Secretary of the Interior? Did he violate the Hatch Act? Zinke is not an elected official, he is a civil servant. (Zinke pushed horse slaughter in Montana, remember that?  https://wildhorseeducation.org/2017/03/01/zinke-to-head-interior-heres-your-sign/)

Last night Zinke urged voters in Montana to elect fellow Republican Greg Gianforte to the U.S. House, to “help his boss, the President.” That is not a statement made as a Montana resident expressing a personal belief on an issue, that’s an outright political move as the Secretary of Interior, a civil servant.

Ok, so who cares? The Secretary of the Interior endorsed a Republican running for office,  likely his buddy when he himself held political office in Montana, big deal. The big deal is he didn’t do it in his “civies,” he did it using the voice of the sitting Secretary of the Interior.

What if you work for the Department of Interior and have a different opinion? If, as an example, you were the state lead of BLM in Montana and felt that the vote would hurt public land or even endanger the people that work in your office? If you, as the state lead, stand next to Steve Bullock (Gianforte’s Democratic opponent) and say “Help drain the political swamp in DC, vote for Bullock! Keep public land safe!” would you expect to keep your job?

Just a reminder that I was born in New Jersey. Gianforte is a Jersey millionaire. Now what other millionaires, or supposed billionaires, also “ran in the streets” in New Jersey? Our President? If you want to read more you can go here:  http://www.montanademocrats.org/news/montana-newspapers-gave-harsh-words-for-gianforte

In my capacity as an advocate for wild horses I have watched federal employees do a dangerous dance around the Hatch. I have watched (and documented) over and over this “buddy system” bend, twist and break policy, protocol and even the law, to accommodate politics, family and personal agenda. I’ll be writing more on that soon.

As wild horse advocates we face an uphill battle at every single turn. Our interest, wild horses, is the favorite scapegoat of everyone. It is easy to place wild horse advocates into a category of “crazy cat lady,” I’ve watched that over and over. However I have watched that “crazy” behavior on all sides. But I have witnessed it rewarded, not reprimanded, when the behavior serves a civil servants own interest.

There is nothing “fair” about “multiple use,” it’s a charade. Wild horse advocates are treated just like the wild horse; no equity in practice.

But when we have laws that are supposed to protect public debate, free information and freedom of speech that are dolled out selectively by the biggest bully in the room? It creates a sad situation. Do you become the bullied or the bully? Personally I don’t want to be either and that’s been a challenge long before I came to Nevada a decade ago, it extends back to growing up in the neighborhood I grew up in. But what are our choices when the federal government wont act like the parent in the room?

Did Zinke just violate the Hatch? What would the “memo” look like to a state lead of BLM in Montana if he disagreed, in public? Maybe something like “Pack your bags, you’re heading to Anchorage,” or perhaps just a new keycard that says, “Greeter, Statue of Liberty restroom.”


We have been very busy the last two weeks getting crucial information to Congress. We will have more on that soon.

If you can help us fight for equity we need you. The inequity could, will, lead to the end of wild horses as we know them. Contribute to our “fight fund” below.


Categories: Wild Horse Education