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National Institutes of Health Ethics Program

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Political Activities

The following is a summary of political activity restrictions under the Hatch Act Reform Amendments of 1993, its implementing regulations, and the Federal Criminal Code. This document was prepared by the HHS Office of the General Counsel, Ethics Division in 1997.

Summary

The Hatch Act Reform Amendments of 1993 authorize certain Federal employees to actively participate in partisan political activities on their own time and away from the federal workplace. Significant restrictions, principally in the area of fundraising and the solicitation of political service, still apply to these covered employees even during non-duty hours. The reform provisions do not apply to some career management and other employees who remain subject to severe restrictions, just as they were under the prior law.

Covered Employees

The amended Hatch Act, effective February 3, 1994, permits the following employees to be active off-duty and off-premises in connection with partisan political management and campaigns:

Part-time or temporary employees are covered fully by the provisions of the Act. Intermittent or occasional employees, including those designated as special Government employees, are covered only when on duty.

Restricted Employees

The following employees may not under any circumstances take an active part in partisan political management or campaigns. These positions are subject to the standards in the original version of the Hatch Act and to the additional prohibitions mandated by the statutory revision and the implementing regulations at 5 C.F.R. part 734, subpart D.

Uniformed service officers in the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps are governed by equivalent standards in Departmental regulations at 45 C.F.R. part 73, subpart F.

Permitted Off-Duty, Off-Premises Activities

Under the new law, covered federal employees may, while off-duty, away from government property, and without use of a government vehicle, uniform, or official insignia, take an active part in political management or in political campaigns. Subject to these limitations and the prohibitions outlined in the next section, the following activities are permitted:

Prohibited Activities

If an otherwise permitted activity is undertaken at the wrong time, at an unsuitable location, or in an improper way, a violation may occur. Specifically, federal employees cannot engage in political activities while:

In defining duty hours and federal space, the following rules apply:

Covered federal employees, at all times (whether at work, after duty hours or on leave), shall:

Criminal Statutes

All federal employees, regardless of position, pay, duty, or leave status, are subject to criminal prosecution for the conduct summarized in the following statutes:

18 U.S.C. 595: Interference by Administrative Employees of Governments
No administrative employee at the federal, state, or local levels of government, in connection with federally financed activities, may use official authority for the purpose of interfering with, or affecting, the nomination or election of any candidate for federal office.
18 U.S.C. 600: Promise of Employment or Other Benefit for Political Activity
No one can directly or indirectly promise employment, a raise in pay, a contract, a grant, or other government benefit as an enticement to, or reward for, political activity to be rendered in the future, in connection with any election, convention, or caucus.
18 U.S.C. 601: Deprivation of Employment or Other Benefit for Political Contribution
Political contributions of money or services cannot be coerced by directly or indirectly threatening the denial or deprivation of any employment, payments, or benefits made possible under any federal program.
18 U.S.C. 602: Solicitation of Political Contributions
Congressional candidates and incumbents cannot knowingly solicit political contributions from any federal officer or employee or from any contractor who renders personal services. Federal officers and employees similarly may not solicit political contributions from any contractor who renders personal services. Federal officers and employees in turn may not solicit political contributions from each other to the extent that the solicitation is prohibited by the Hatch Act. (Non-subordinate federal employee union members may be solicited outside the workplace on behalf of the union political action committee).
18 U.S.C. 603: Making Political Contributions
Political contributions to any federal officer who is the "employer or employing authority" of the contributor are prohibited. (For executive branch employees other than members of the uniformed services, this provision no longer applies. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps officers remain subject to the ban which may preclude making contributions to the re-election campaign committee of an incumbent President.)
18 U.S.C. 606: Intimidation to Secure Political Contributions
No federal officer or employee may promote, discharge, or in any manner change the rank or compensation of any other officer or employee, or promise or threaten to do so, for giving or failing to give any contribution of money or item of value for any political purpose.
18 U.S.C. 607: Place of Solicitation
No person may receive or solicit any political contribution in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties by federal officers, employees, or contractors who render personal services.
18 U.S.C. 610: Coercion of Political Activity
No person may command or coerce, or attempt to intimidate, a federal employee to engage in, or not to engage in, any political activity, including voting, making political contributions, or working on behalf of any candidate.

Hatch Act Reform Amendments of 1993 and Implementing Regulations

Public Law 103-94, 107 Stat. 1001 (October 6, 1993)
Subchapter III of Chapter 73, Title 5, United States Code (5 U.S.C. §§ 7321-7326)
59 Fed. Reg. 5313 (February 3, 1994) (5 C.F.R. Part 733)
59 Fed. Reg. 48765 (September 23, 1994) (5 C.F.R. Part 734)
61 Fed. Reg. 35088 (July 5, 1996) (5 C.F.R. Part 734 Revised)

Federal Criminal Code

Chapter 29, Title 18, United States Code (18 U.S.C. §§ 595, 600-603, 606-607, 610)

Office of the General Counsel, Ethics Division
Department of Health and Human Services
February 1997

You may also wish to review the Hatch Act information available from the US Office of Special Counsel.

For additional information, contact your IC's Deputy Ethics Counselor or Ethics Coordinator.

Updated: 4/7/10