By Tyler Clifford
(Reuters) - A non-profit ethics watchdog on Friday called for a probe into whether White House press secretary Jen Psaki violated federal law with an apparent endorsement from the White House podium of a Democratic candidate for governor in Virginia.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, said it filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), asking that it investigate whether Psaki violated the Hatch Act by advocating for the election of Terry McAuliffe.
McAuliffe, who served as Virginia governor from 2014 to 2018, is up against Republican Glenn Youngkin in the Nov. 2 election. Polls show it as a close contest.
The Hatch Act of 1939 limits the political campaigning activities of federal employees, except the president and vice president.
During a media briefing on Thursday, Psaki said: "We're going to do everything we can to help former Governor McAuliffe, and we believe in the agenda he's representing."
CREW said it appeared Psaki used her official authority or influence to affect the results of the election.
"OSC should commence an immediate investigation into the conduct described in this letter and take any appropriate disciplinary action against Ms. Psaki," the complaint read.
During the Trump administration, CREW logged complaints against multiple White House officials. One complaint against Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway led to an OSC recommendation that she be removed from federal service.
In an accompanying release, CREW President Noah Bookbinder said Psaki's potential violation paled in comparison to "the outrageous offenses of the Trump administration."
Asked about the complaint in an interview with CNN on Friday, Psaki said she would be more careful next time.
"Words certainly matter," she said.
(Reporting by Tyler Clifford and Kanishka Singh; Writing by Tyler Clifford; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Aurora Ellis)