U.S. Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.) is calling on Southern California U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy is to resign over her apparent support for Filner’s rival in a race for San Diego mayor, saying she has violated the Hatch Act prohibiting political activities by federal employees.
Duffy came under fire last week after it was revealed she — acting as a private citizen — helped organize a candidate forum at her synagogue in San Diego. At the event, the mayoral candidates sparred, with Filner calling his Republican opponent, San Diego council member Carl DeMaio, “a liar.” The episode prompted Duffy to send DeMaio’s campaign an email apologizing for the flare up, saying some members of the congregation believed Filner “embarrassed himself.”
DeMaio’s campaign then released Duffy’s email to reporters, which officials said was an oversight.
Yesterday, Filner again called for Duffy’s resignation. ”She is illegally participating in an election,” he said at a debate Thursday.
The NBC affiliate in San Diego reported Duffy is being reviewed by the Justice Department for potential violations.
A spokesperson for the San Diego U.S. Attorney’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Justice Department declined to comment.
Last week, Duffy defended her actions. She said her “personal email” was not an endorsement “of any kind,” but also reiterating her belief that Filner acted unprofessionally at the candidate forum.
“I have made it clear not just to mayoral candidates but to any candidate — and candidates have sought my endorsement who are on the Nov. 6 ballot — that given my presidential appointment, I won’t make any statements as to any candidate,” Duffy told the San Diego Union-Times last week. “Of course I am a member of this community and our elected officials are very important to me and I will be casting my votes. But that’s a personal matter, and I try to keep it that way.”
The report also noted that Duffy gave $250 to DeMaio’s general election fund last month. Federal employees are allowed to donate to campaigns under the law.
The Voice of San Diego spoke with two former George W. Bush White House lawyers this week, who said Duffy’s actions do not appear to violate the law. They criticized DeMaio for leaking Duffy’s email and using it to imply her support.
“He’s putting her in a situation where it looks like she’s violating the Hatch Act,” said Richard Painter, a law professor at the University of Minnesota who served as Bush’s chief ethics lawyer in the White House Counsel’s office from 2005 to 2007.