It took more than five years, but the federal government has finally won the right to fire Keith Arnold, a federal employee who repeatedly ran for Congress in violation of laws against mixing government work with politics.
Mr. Arnold, who joined the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2010, ran in Washington state, usually as a Democrat though sometimes as an independent, in every congressional election from 2006 through 2022.
He earned his first warning in 2012 from the Office of Special Counsel, which polices politicking. In 2016 the OSC filed an official complaint charging Mr. Arnold with violating the Hatch Act, the law that limits federal employees’ political activities.
In 2017, a judge with the Merit Systems Protection Board ruled that Mr. Arnold should be fired, but he appealed the ruling to the three-member board. Since the board lacked a quorum from Jan. 7, 2017, through March 3, 2022, Mr. Arnold remained on the job — and ran for office three more times.
The OSC said Tuesday that the MSPB has now affirmed the judge’s ruling, giving the government until mid-February to confirm that Mr. Arnold is out.
“While disciplinary action has taken some time due to a lack of quorum at MSPB, I am pleased that Mr. Arnold will finally be removed from his federal position for egregious and ongoing violations of the Hatch Act,” said Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner.
The Washington Times tried to reach Mr. Arnold at his work number. The call went to a voice mail that still had an out-of-office notification from the week between Christmas and the New Year’s holiday.
The Times also sent an email to Mr. Arnold’s campaign address.
In 2014, he addressed the Hatch Act issue, saying that if federal employees are supposed to stay out of campaigns, then elected members of Congress should be barred from running for reelection.
“Otherwise, it’s an outrageously unfair double standard, election rigging, makes incumbents’ offices their entitlements, and shuts down Democracy,” he wrote.
His political career never really took off, starting with his write-in candidacy in 2006.
His high point came in 2014, when he was one of just three names on the ballot, earning 7,540 votes, or 8.8%, in the open primary.
He ran as a Democrat in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014, then as an independent in 2016 and 2018, then as a Democrat again in 2020 and 2022.
He earned 1,669 votes in last year’s primary.
The OSC said Mr. Arnold’s website in each campaign labeled him a “proud federal employee,” referencing his position at NOAA.
Both running for office and citing a role as a federal employee are violations of the Hatch Act.
Mr. Arnold’s website said he is pro-life and supports gun control, opposed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and advocated for “fairness.”
He said he got his first federal job at the IRS in 1999, left because of disillusionment with the Bush administration, then rejoined with his job as an accounting technician at NOAA in the Obama era.