What’s the Hatch Act?
It’s the law that restricts partisan political activities of most federal employees. Penalties for violations—the law is enforced by the Office of Special Counsel, which brings such cases before the Merit Systems Protection Board—range up to firing.

The main restrictions for most employees are that they may not: use their official authority or influence to interfere with an election; solicit, accept, or receive political contributions unless both the donor and solicitor are members of the same federal labor organization or employee organization, the one solicited is not a subordinate employee and the contribution is for the organization’s multi-candidate political committee; knowingly solicit or discourage the political activity of any person who has business before the agency; engage in political activity (including sending emails that advocate for a political party or candidate for partisan public office) while on duty, in any government office, while wearing an official uniform or while using a government vehicle; be candidates for public office in partisan elections.

Stricter prohibitions apply to senior employees as well as those involved in certain law enforcement or security functions. They may not: be candidates for public office in partisan elections; campaign for or against a candidate in a partisan election; serve as an officer of a political party; solicit, accept, or receive political contributions; sell tickets to or organize a partisan political fundraiser; take an active part in managing the political campaign of a partisan candidate for public or party office; work at the polls on behalf of a partisan candidate or political party; distribute campaign material; serve as a delegate, alternate, or proxy to a political party convention; address a convention, rally, caucus, or similar gathering of a political party in support of or in opposition to a partisan candidate for public office or political office; use a personal automobile to drive voters to the polls on behalf of a political party or partisan candidate.

There are various exceptions and special rules. For details, see Chapter 10, Section 4 of the Federal Employees Almanac; to seek an advisory opinion, go to www.osc.gov.

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