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NTEU Chapter 222 is always on the forefront of being involved in the Legislative Process relating to federal employees.
Federal employees must be involved to insure that federal employee issues are heard by the elected officials who determine issues vitally important to us.
While federal employees are prohibited from getting involved and partaking in certain activities and actions, there are certain things federal employees are allowed to be involved in.
A listing of the allowable and prohibited activities and actions and are listed below.
What Can Be Done
Federal employees may engage in a wide range of political activities, which are set forth below. However, employees may not use the workplace or its resources for political activity. There are additional restrictions that apply to career Senior Executives and Criminal Investigation (CI) employees*.
- express their personal opinion on a political issue or candidate by, for example, writing a letter to the editor of a newspaper (however, this must be done in a personal capacity and the employee cannot use his/her official title);
- be a member or serve as an officer of a political party, and participate in a nominating caucus, a political convention or other political gathering, and serve as a delegate to a political party convention;
- outside the workplace, participate in political campaigns including displaying signs, stickers and buttons associated with political parties and candidates; display a political bumper sticker on his or her car, even if the car is parked during the workday in an agency garage or federally subsidized private parking lot (however, if the car is used for official travel or clearly identified as being on official business, the sticker/sign must be covered/removed); canvas for votes in support of or in opposition to a partisan political candidate; circulate and sign a nominating petition; endorse or oppose a partisan political candidate in a speech, advertisement, broadcast, or campaign literature; and actively manage the political campaign of a partisan political candidate (an employee may even serve as treasurer of a campaign to the extent of preparing and filing campaign finance reports and paying campaign expenses);
- outside the workplace and in their personal capacity, write a blog in support or opposition to a partisan political candidate or political party; identify the political party they support on their social media (e.g., Facebook) profiles, which includes:
- posting comments or opinions that advocate for or against a political party or partisan candidate;
- becoming a “friend” or “fan” of, or “like” the page of a political party or partisan candidate; and
- post a link to a partisan political party or a candidate’s website on their social media page or blog, so long as the link does not lead directly to the page of the website on which readers can contribute money to the party or candidate.
- register and vote; act as a recorder, poll watcher, or election judge, drive voters in a privately owned vehicle to polling places on behalf of a candidate, party or political group. An employee may also work for a candidate or political party by observing the check-in process, holding a sign, or distributing campaign literature;
- run as a candidate in a nonpartisan election (note that a nonpartisan election can transform to a partisan one if partisan politics becomes associated with the campaign of any candidate, not just the employee running for office. For example, if any candidate running in the nonpartisan election solicits the endorsement of a partisan group or uses a party’s resources to further his or her campaign, these actions may transform the election from nonpartisan to partisan and serve to prohibit a federal employee from running in the election);
- make contributions to a political party or campaign and attend political fundraisers. An employee may also organize a fundraising event so long as he/she does not personally solicit, accept or receive political contributions.
Note: Some of the above activities, such as holding office in a party, running as a candidate, and serving as election judge and recorder, may be considered Outside Employment which may require prior approval.
What Can’t Be Done
While employees may engage in a wide range of political activities, they are prohibited from using their official position or authority in connection with political activities. Employees may not engage in political activity while on duty, in any government office, while wearing an official uniform or using a government vehicle. This includes the use of a government computer to send emails advocating for or against a political party or candidate for partisan public office, even if the email is only an expression of the employee’s personal opinion to a friend or colleague.
- wear political buttons in the workplace, display political posters, and display a picture(s) of a candidate for partisan office or have slogans such as “Vote for…..” or “I support…..” in office mouse pads, mugs and other personal items;
- use their official authority or influence to interfere with an election;
- solicit, accept or receive political contributions, even when doing so in a personal capacity; or, post a link on their social medial page (e.g., Facebook) to a partisan political party or candidate’s website if that link leads directly to the page of the website on which readers can contribute money to the party or candidate;
- display pictures of partisan candidates in the workplace. There are two exceptions to this rule:
- An employee may display a personal photograph that was on display prior to the election season if the employee is in the photograph with the candidate and the photograph was taken at some kind of personal event, such as a wedding, and not at a campaign event or other partisan political event.
- An employee may display an official photograph of the President, which includes the traditional portrait photo of the President, as well as photographs of the President conducting official business. Pictures distributed by the President’s campaign, downloaded from the internet, or clipped from magazines or newspapers are not official photographs.
- knowingly solicit or discourage the political activity of any person who has business before the agency;
- be a candidate for public office in partisan elections.
*Career Senior Executives and CI employees
In addition to the prohibited activities outlined above, Senior Executives and CI employees may not work on campaigns where any of the candidates are running as representatives of a political party. This means they cannot make campaign speeches, distribute campaign material or engage in other campaign activities in a partisan election. They are also prohibited from holding office in a political club or party.
Need Additional Information or Assistance?
You can find more information on Political Activity on the EthicsLink home page. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (the federal agency responsible for the enforcement of the Hatch Act) web site has detailed information regarding the Hatch Act.
If you have a Hatch Act question, you should first raise it with your manager or contact the Ethics and General Government Law Branch of General Legal Services at (202) 927-0900 or via email at GLS.Ethics@irscounsel.treas.gov
For more information, please refer to the Hatch Act at the US Office of Special Counsel.