Former U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett (wibc.com file photo)
Joe Hogsett has not said whether he is running for mayor of Indianapolis, but the head of the local Republican Party believes Hogsett was illegally planning to do so while he was U.S. Attorney.
"It's clear that he engaged in some political activity while he was U.S. Attorney, which is a violation of federal law, specifically the Hatch Act," said Kyle Walker, chairman of the Marion County Republican Party. The Hatch Act is the 1939 law that prohibits employees in the Executive Branch of the federal government or offices that are funded by the Executive Branch from engaging in partisan politics. "Based on the timing of his announcement that he was going to resign (as U.S. Attorney) and the subsequent coordinated media blitz he engaged in with his associates within 24 hours of that resignation, it's clear that there was some level of conversation, if not direct coordination."
When Hogsett, who is a Democrat, resigned effective July 31 and immediately took a position with Indianapolis law firm Bose, McKinney & Evans, many who observe politics believed he did so to eventually announce a run for mayor - the municipal election is in November 2015. Hogsett later announced an exploratory committee for the mayoral race, but Walker believes that talk began as far back as 2012, two years after Hogsett was appointed U.S. Attorney by President Obama. Walker cites what he called a "PR blitz" Hogsett went on that year in which he admitted to being "politically motivated." "The question I ask is how much of that taxpayer-funded self promotion was indeed authorize by Hogsett to further his own political ambitions, which he clearly has," Walker said."
Walker also cites private conversations Hogsett held with political luminaries like former Senator Evan Bayh. Though even U.S. Attorneys can have private conversations, Walker contends the content of those conversations still isn't supposed to be political. "It is more than a coincidence in my opinion that the day (Hogsett) announced his resignation, Evan Bayh happened to be in Indianapolis and happened to call a press conference in which he encouraged and endorsed Joe Hogsett to run for mayor," Walker said.
Walker denied that his complaint was a pre-emptive strike against a Hogsett candidacy - Republican Mayor Greg Ballard has not said whether he will seek a third term. The GOP chairman said he has not decided whether to file a complaint about Hogsett with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. "As we sport of peel the layers of the onion back, this entire political game that was being played in the shadows becomes more and more clear."
Hogsett has not returned a call or an email.