Why The Only Trump Official Prosecuted For Benefitting From Her Political Position Was A Black Woman

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Lynne Patton

In August, a video aired on the last night of the Republican National Convention which consisted of a two-minute look at four New York City public housing tenants who praised former President Donald Trump's record and bashed the city’s mayor.

Upon hours of the video’s release, three of those tenants spoke out to say they were tricked into participating in the video. They accused Lynne Patton, a top federal housing official, of being the mastermind behind deliberately misleading them.

Patton, who admitted to violating the Hatch Act, agreed to pay a settlement fine and to not serve in the federal government for 48 months.

Lynne Patton wasn’t the only one to violate the Hatch Act, but she was the only one punished. Is it because she was the only Black woman among those at fault?

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What was Patton’s role in the federal government and how did she react?

Following Biden’s inauguration, Patton left her job at the Department of Housing and Urban Development in January. The fine that she received consisted of $1,000. In addition, she was barred from public office.

The Office of Special Counsel, the agency that enforces the Hatch Act, released a statement about Patton’s situation.

“By using information and NYCHA connections available to her solely by virtue of her HUD position, Patton improperly harnessed the authority of her federal position to assist the Trump campaign,” the statement said.

Patton was one of Trump’s political appointees who had little to no experience in their fields and primarily used their position to help the president and his administration. Usually spreading misinformation and making his voice reach a wider audience.

On Tuesday, April 6, Patton responded to the situation in an email where she said she doesn’t regret making and releasing the video.

“Unfortunately, after consulting multiple Hatch Act lawyers post-employment, receiving incorrect and/or incomplete legal advice, even in good faith, from your own agency does not an affirmative defense make,” Patton wrote.

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Which side are the tenants on?

“She just wants attention, and I’m not going to give it to her,” said Claudia Perez, one of the tenants who felt deceived into appearing in the pro-Trump video. “I don’t think it was stern enough," she said of the punishment. 

Perez was under the impression that the video would highlight chronic problems at the housing authority. Although she voted for Trump in the election, she said she would not have participated in the video if she knew the true intention behind it.

Keith Boykin, a commentator for CNN, took to social media to voice his frustration that Patton was the only person in the Trump administration punished for a line that multiple officials had also crossed. He claims other people like Ivanka Trump and Kellyanne Conway were also in violation of the Hatch Act.

“I am no fan of Lynne Patton, and she clearly violated the Hatch Act. But so did Kellyanne Conway, Ivanka Trump and nearly everyone else in the Trump administration. Why is the Black woman the only one being punished,” he tweeted.

The Hatch Act of 1939 restricts federal employee participation in certain partisan political activities, according to the FDA.

So why is it that she was the only one that received punishment? Although many are outraged on social media as they say she wasn’t the only one at fault, it could be because of her history regarding the Hatch Act.

The Office of Special Counsel determined in 2019 that Patton was in violation of the law when she was “liking” political tweets, as well as for displaying a Trump “MAGA” hat in her office in New York.

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This shouldn't take away from the fact, however, that she was the only one to receive a punishment and she is also the only Black person involved.

What’s next for Patton?

It’s unclear what her plans are in regards to the federal government following her four-year suspension. For now, she is unemployed and busy paying her fine.

This situation should be examined further to determine why she was the only one to face any consequences for violating the Hatch Act. It’s likely no coincidence that she was the only Black woman involved but the only one punished.

What was Ivanka Trump’s involvement behind the scenes? No doubt it’ll be harder to punish her as the daughter of the previous President. Should the government take further action? Was Patton at fault previously as well, and did that play a role in her punishment?

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Tomás Diniz Santos is a writer living in Orlando, Florida. He covers news, entertainment, and pop-culture topics.