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Political activities and DoD employees

Posted 4/5/2012   Updated 4/5/2012 Email story   Print story


by Seth Cowell
Ethics counselor

4/5/2012 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- With the 2012 presidential election less than eight months away, TV newscasts and newspaper articles are filled with the latest news about the candidates running for office.
While exercising the right to vote is the duty of all Americans, federal employees, both military and civilian, should understand the laws and regulations that outline what constitutes appropriate participation in the political process.

The provisions for federal employees are published in the Hatch Act (5 U.S.C. 7321, et. seq.), DoDD 1344.10 and AFI 51-902. While the rules for civilian employees are slightly less restrictive, there are common provisions that apply to both civilian and military members.

While federal employees are encouraged to participate in the political process, these rules are established to ensure that partisan politics and government service are properly and reasonably separated to avoid even the appearance of official endorsement of candidates or issues. Therefore, the basic rule to follow is that employees can only participate in political activity outside of the workplace and outside of duty hours in a manner that does not imply official endorsement of any candidate.

For example, while any employee may attend a political rally, a military member cannot do so while in uniform.

The restrictions also still apply on social media sites and in email.

For example, it is not permitted to forward a political email that advocates for the election or defeat of a political candidate while at work from official or personal email. Employees also need to be careful in expressing political opinions, particularly about candidates on social media.

This is just a broad overview of the rules, and there are many do's and dont's are not included here. Plus, there are additional rules that apply to more senior officials.

For a complete list of permitted and prohibited political activities, view the Sharepoint site by searching "Ethics" from the CenterNet homepage, call the Electronic Systems Center ethics counselor at 781-225-0139 or email ethics@hanscom.af.mil.

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