Until April of this year, April Sands was an attorney at the Federal Elections Commission's (FEC) Enforcement Division. That division is responsible for enforcement of federal elections law generally and is specifically charged with investigating "alleged violations of the law" and well as making recommendations to the FEC about "appropriate action to take with respect to apparent violations."
During her time at the FEC, however, Sands sent out numerous tweets expressing support for President Obama and other Democrats, opposing Republicans, and even explicitly urging followers to donate to a Democratic candidate.
In her tweets, sent from the handle @ReignOfApril, Sands expressed an intense dislike of Republicans.
"I just don't understand how anyone but straight white men can vote Republican. What kind of delusional rhetorical does one use?" she tweeted in July of 2012.
"If you're still calling yourself a Republican after the #WarOnWomen, their stated RNC platform, & Birtherism, you are my enemy," she wrote in August of the same year.
She noted her own donations, and pushed others to give as well. "Our #POTUS's birthday is August 4. He'll be 51. I'm donating at least $51 to give him the best birthday present ever: a second term," she said in a July 2012 tweet. "Donate to @clairecmc [the Twitter handle of Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill] today," she tweeted the next month. "Romney is toast," said a message sent in September. "But POTUS can't do it all on his own. Don't forget Congressional races. We need a Democratic sweep. Stay focused."
Sands is, of course, entitled to her political opinions, whatever they are. But as an Executive Branch employee, she was prohibited from engaging in partisan political activity while on duty in a federal workplace. The Hatch Act, which places limits on such activity, also makes it a crime for employees to solicit money in connection with an election "while in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties."
Did Sands engage in criminal activity? The FEC's Office of Special Counsel and Inspector General's office investigated Sands' behavior, and last April, announced that she had resigned as part of a settlement agreement. Sands admitted to conducting political activity, including fundraising, on Twitter, and also to taking part in a political discussion using a webcam while in an FEC conference room. She was on duty at the time.
But as a letter from House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Ca.) and Regulatory Affairs Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Oh.) notes, the investigation stopped short of pursuing criminal charges.
According to the letter, which provided background on Sands and copies of her tweets, Sands' computer hard drive was recycled, and its records wiped, before the FEC's Inspector General could get access to it.
"The bias exhibited [by Sands' tweets] is striking," the letter says, "especially for an attorney charged with the responsibility to enforce federal election laws fairly and dispassionately." The letter requests comprehensive information explaining how the FEC managed to let Sands' hard drive be recycled.
The odd kicker to the story: Prior to 2001, long before the tweets were sent, Sand worked at the FEC under the supervision of Lois Lerner, who for the last year has been at the center of an ongoing congressional investigation into possible targeting of conservative non-profit groups by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Lerner headed the IRS office in charge of tax exemptions, but has indicated that many of her emails during the time frame under investigation cannot be produced for congressional investigators. Her hard drive crashed less than two weeks after the House sent its first letter investigating scrutiny of non-profit groups, and it could not be restored, preventing investigators from accessing its contents.
There is no direct connection between the recycling of Sands' hard drive and Lerner's conveniently timed crash. But, especially when combined with the fact that six other IRS employees have apparently also lost record, at least one because of another computer crash, it does appear that federal employees are having a remarkably difficult time maintaining electronic records that might be useful to investigators.