Project Veritas released a video in which Department of State official Stuart Karaffa recounts to an undercover journalist that while at work, he perform political chores for the Democratic Socialists of America, of which he is a member. He said on tape: “I’m careful about it. I don’t leave a paper trail.” Expressing confidence that oversight is lax at the State Department, Karaffa said, “I have nothing to lose. It’s impossible to fire federal employees.”

Admitting that he is part of the resistance within the federal government, Karaffa told the undercover reporter on video that he may not be impartial at work. “Resist everything… Every level. F**k sh*t up.”

Hatch Act violation?

A spokesperson for the State Department subsequently confirmed that Karaffa is a Management and Program Analyst at the department’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations, which manages properties owned by the United States outside of the country. The spokesperson said that the agency takes violations of the Hatch Act seriously, as well as any financial disclosure rules. While saying that the agency is reviewing the allegations, it said no further comment is forthcoming. The Hatch Act refers to federal law that limits political activity on the part of federal employees. It was liberalized during the Obama administration.

This was the first installment in a series of promised undercover videos, announced Project Veritas, which has conducted a number of undercover videos that seek to reveal the “deep state” and the “swamp” in Washington DC. Project Veritas said that Karaffa has been “engaged in radical socialist political activity on the taxpayer’s dime, while advocating for resistance to official government policies.” According to Project Veritas, which was founded by James O’Keefe, Karaffa is also a ranking member of the Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America (Metro DC DSA), which advances progressive causes and candidates in the Washington metropolitan area.

Karaffa told an undercover journalist that he is active for DSA even while performing work for the State Department. Saying that he writes drafts of DSA communications while on the job, he said, “… I’m careful about it. I don’t leave a paper trail, like I leave emails, and like any press s**t that comes up I leave that until after 5:30. But as soon as 5:31 hits, got my like draft messages ready to send out.”

Karaffa said that while at work he monitors Virginia political news. He said, “You could put two and two together probably. With like web traffic…. So with web traffic, I mean I could make the case before a court of law that- I’m going to the Virginia sort of, campaign finance website- that I’m just interested in what people are doing politically. But if they also go and look at like DSA minutes and like Officer positions they’ll be like, ‘that’s weird, you were the co-chair of the electoral caucus, and you spent three hours on a Virginia campaign finance website.'”

You can't fire a federal employee

Expressing confidence that he will suffer no consequences, he said,  “Maybe someday I’ll go to board of elections jail, probably not.” He added, “I have nothing to lose. It’s impossible to fire federal employees.” He said that his supervisors are not aware of his political activity at work. Also, he said that his supervisors are less than observant about reviewing his required financial form. He alleged that: “… somebody just rubber stamps [the form] and it goes forward… I don’t know if [the ethics officer is] all there. He’s so checked out…”

Numerous conservatives, such as Sean Hannity of Fox News and Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch, congratulated Project Veritas and O’Keefe for the scoop. Legacy media was largely silent about the revelations, with the exception of the conservative Washington Times. Leftist commentators on Twitter were dismissive of the video. A check of progressive media found no coverage of the revelations.

A socialist youth

Democratic Socialists of America listed Stuart Karaffa as a contact person for the successful campaign for Lee Carter, a DSA candidate who was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 2017. Karaffa sits as treasurer on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission of Mount Pleasant, a gentrifying neighborhood in the District of Columbia. He holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration. As of Tuesday, his Twitter account is private.

On August 25, federal district judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the District of Columbia struck down three key components of President Trump’s executive orders that sought to make it easer to terminate employment of underperforming federal employees. The decision followed complaints issued by several labor unions that represent public-sector employees. The judge wrote that the Trump administration had diverged from the intent of Congress when it established the law. On of the orders Trump signed in May attempted to limit the influence of federal employee unions. Another order restrict the amount of time that employees can spend on union activities. The president also wanted to reduce to 30 days the amount of time an underperforming employee has to show improvement. 

Congressional action

A bipartisan bill in Congress would seek to streamline workplace rules in the federal government. The Modern Employment Reform, Improvement, and Transformation (MERIT) Act would would make ease the dismissal or firing of federal employees. It would give any federal employees intended to be fired a 7 to 21 day notice of action in writing that lists the reason(s) for dismissal and the projected date of termination. Any appeal from an employee to the Merit Systems Protection Board would be given up to 30 days. If a decision is not made by then, the dismissal would be upheld. The probationary period for new hires — during which new employees have curtailed appeal rights in case of firing — would be doubled from one year to two years.
The House version H.R. 559 was introduced by Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) in 2017, while Senate version S. 3200 was introduced by Sen. David Purdue (D-GA) in July. “In June of 2017, the President signed the Veterans Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act. Through the civil service reforms in that legislation, the Veterans Administration secretary has been empowered to cut through destructive red tape and increase employee accountability, resulting in the removal of over 1,400 underperforming employees, and hundreds of employment suspensions or demotions,” Rep. Loudermilk said in a press release. ”The effect of injecting accountability at the VA has ensured better care and treatment of our veterans.” Sen. Loudermilk said in the release, “The MERIT Act will provide a desperately needed update to federal law to ensure efficiency, transparency, and accountability ... answering the President’s call to empower his team to initiate the changes needed to make American great again.”

Opponents say that the bill is misguided. “There are several reasons why the VA law should not be replicated across the federal government,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD).




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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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