Congressman Panetta and his Congressional Colleagues Introduce the Our Lawn Act

September 11, 2020
Press Release

SALINAS, CA — This week, Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel Valley) joined Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) in introducing the Our Lawn Act.   That is a bill that would ban the use of White House grounds for political purposes.  

For nearly a century, the Hatch Act has existed to provide a clear distinction between public servants and electoral candidates.  Both parties have observed and respected this law for decades and have condemned apparent Hatch Act violations.  Unfortunately, this administration has shown, through providing the White House and other federal property as a staging area for the Republican National Convention, that we must continue to work to ensure that officials are not misusing public property and the prestige of office for their own political gain.  These actions misappropriated public resources for the private benefit of the Republican Party and put federal employees in a position where their employers were ordering them to violate the law.

"What we saw on the last night of the RNC was this President’s failure to appreciate and accept that the White House is not his house, it’s the people’s house.  The simple and straightforward concept of not using taxpayer supported property for political campaigns is something that most public servants, Democrat and Republican, not just understand, but we also embrace,” said Congressman Panetta.  “For most of us, common sense guides us to act accordingly, however, for a few others, including this President, we must create laws like the Our Lawn Act to prevent future violations of the Hatch Act and to help uphold our definitive democratic values.”

“The White House lawn belongs to Americans – not to a politician or political party, no matter who occupies the Oval Office.  The disturbing trend of the Trump administration using public resources for private gain only continues with his latest stunt. The Our Lawn Act isn’t about protecting a patch of grass – it’s about sending a message to the world that we are a nation of laws,” Rep. Dean Phillips said.  “Neither party is immune to corruption – remember, the Hatch Act was originally designed to clean up Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Democratic Party. We need laws with teeth to ensure that no president, Republican or Democrat, uses the White House grounds for political means. Let’s get campaigning off the People’s lawn and into a venue where it belongs.”

The bill is endorsed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).  "The Hatch Act is a critical law that codifies the principle that our government's employees must not interfere in an election while acting in their official position," said Noah Bookbinder, CREW’s Executive Director.  "Over the last few weeks we have seen a series of flagrant abuses of this critical check, including the Republican National Convention which prominently featured government speakers delivering addresses from the White House and the White House lawn.  The White House is the people's house, not a political prop.  This is why CREW endorses the ‘Our Lawn Act,’ which specifically prohibits the use of the White House grounds as a prop for a candidate for political office, and requires that, in the event of a violation, the candidate or the candidate's party must reimburse the taxpayer for every cent spent on the event, from setup to cleanup."

The Our Lawn Act would create a clear prohibition on the use of federal property for political conventions or any type of political fundraising events.  The legislation explicitly applies to the White House grounds and other federal properties.  It would create both civil and criminal penalties for violating the law, including fines and jail time.

Rep. Panetta is joined by the following colleagues as original cosponsors: Reps. David Cicilline (D-RI), Mike Levin (D-CA), Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Jim Cooper (D-TN), Joe Neguse (D-CO), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR).