Hatch Act and Politics in Government

Under the Hatch Act, federal employees and certain state and local government employees face restrictions on their ability to participate in political activities.

The Act is enforced by the Office of Special Counsel. That office issues advisories for employees who are uncertain whether their activities fall under the law’s coverage.

Amendments in 1993 allowed many federal employees to take a more active part in political management or in political campaigns. However, certain federal agencies and categories of employees continue to be covered by the tighter restrictions on political activities predating that reform. These agencies and categories are: Administrative Law Judges; Central Imagery Office; Central Intelligence Agency; Contract Appeals Boards; Criminal Division (Department of Justice); Defense Intelligence Agency; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Federal Elections Commission; Merit Systems Protection Board; National Security Agency; National Security Council; Office of Criminal Investigation (Internal Revenue Service); Office of Investigative Programs (Customs Service); Office of Law Enforcement (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms); Office of Special Counsel; Secret Service; and Senior Executive Service (certain career positions).

Hatch Act restrictions do not apply to retirees.

Employees covered by the 1993 Hatch Act amendments may:

  • be candidates for public office in nonpartisan elections;
  • register and vote as they choose;
  • assist in voter registration drives;
  • express opinions about candidates and issues;
  • contribute money to political organizations;
  • attend political fundraising functions;
  • attend and be active at political rallies and meetings;
  • join and be an active member of a political party or club;
  • sign nominating petitions;
  • campaign for or against referendum questions, constitutional amendments, or municipal ordinances;
  • campaign for or against candidates in partisan elections;
  • make campaign speeches for candidates in partisan elections;
  • distribute campaign literature in partisan elections; and
  • hold office in political clubs or parties.

Employees not covered by the 1993 amendments may:

  • register and vote as they choose;
  • assist in voter registration drives;
  • express opinions about candidates and issues;
  • participate in campaigns where none of the candidates represent a political party;
  • contribute money to political organizations or attend political fund raising functions;
  • attend political rallies and meetings;
  • join political clubs or parties;
  • sign nominating petitions; and
  • campaign for or against referendum questions, constitutional amendments, municipal ordinances.

Employees covered by 1993 amendments may not:

  • use official authority or influence to interfere with an election;
  • solicit or discourage political activity of anyone with business before their agency;
  • solicit or receive political contributions (may be done in certain limited situations by federal labor or other employee organizations);
  • be candidates for public office in partisan elections;
  • engage in political activity while on duty, in a government office, wearing an official uniform or using a government vehicle; or
  • wear political buttons on duty.

Employees not covered by the 1993 amendments may not:

  • be candidates for public office in partisan elections;
  • campaign for or against a candidate or slate of candidates in partisan elections;
  • make campaign speeches;
  • collect contributions or sell tickets to political fund raising functions;
  • distribute campaign material in partisan elections;
  • organize or manage political rallies or meetings;
  • hold office in political clubs or parties;
  • circulate nominating petitions;
  • work to register voters for one party only; or
  • wear political buttons at work.

 

There is an exception for communities in which the majority of voters are federal employees that allows employees to run, although only as nonpartisan candidates, in partisan elections and to have a greater involvement in the partisan candidacies of other persons.

Guidance on the Hatch Act, including policies specific to social media, is at https://osc.gov/pages/hatchact.aspx.

Note: OSC policy is that the Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from sending e-mails (or messages through social media and similar electronic communications) that advocate for a political party or candidate for partisan public office while on duty or in a federal building, and that engaging in such activity may subject them to disciplinary action. There is no distinction regarding the amount of political content, nor regarding the number of employees receiving the message.

The Merit Systems Protection Board adjudicates complaints alleging violations of the Hatch Act that are filed by the Office of Special Counsel. In general, the procedures applicable to other MSPB cases also apply to Hatch Act disciplinary actions.

Potential disciplinary actions for violations vary depending on the seriousness, from as mild as a reprimand up to debarment from federal service for five years in addition to removal. Rules are at 5 CFR 734.

 

 

Answers
Views
Question
2
answers
178
views
updated 3 months ago
1
answer
590
views
updated 6 months ago
1
answer
166
views
updated 7 months ago
3
answers
291
views
updated 8 months ago
3
answers
524
views
updated 9 months ago
1
answer
804
views
updated 11 months ago
3
answers
333
views
updated 1 year ago
1
answer
248
views
updated 1 year ago
1
answer
386
views
updated 2 years ago