News | Oct. 31, 2018

Professionalism and pernicious political activities

By Patrick Tremblay DCMA Public Affairs

Federal employees are held to strict standards of conduct at all times, but these standards take on additional weight each fall during election seasons. With the often-caustic sounds of political ads in the background, public servants are required to maintain a level of impartiality in words, actions and even on social media.

The primary law that guides the dos-and-don’ts of employee political behavior is called An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities, better known as the “Hatch Act” after former New Mexico Senator Carl Hatch who introduced the 1939 bill. The act is joined by Department of Defense Directive 1344.10, which provides political activity guidelines for uniformed service members.

Each year, the Defense Contract Management Agency Office of General Counsel reminds agency employees of the law and related federal and DoD policy. This year the Hatch Act was reinforced through a formal email on Sept. 11 (Hatch Act and Political Activities Guide, text below), again through a Sept. 17 email (Blunders Blotter) and once more in a Sept. 26 email (Ethics Corner).

DCMA Senior Associate General Counsel Matthew Ruzicka said regardless of regulations like the Hatch Act, employees have an ethical responsibility to behave in a manner conducive to DCMA mission success.

“We all need to remember that even if something is specifically allowed under the Hatch Act, it may not be conducive to a productive workplace,” said Ruzicka. “Supreme Court Justice Potter Steward wisely said ‘Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do, and what is the right thing to do.’ Employees should carefully weigh the potential effects of political discussions or activities, and consider how they may affect a team’s ability to get their work done effectively.”

The General Counsel has ethics counselors assigned to each region and directorate, available to answer specific questions regarding the Hatch Act or other ethical issues. Find who your ethics counselor is, along with more information and resources, on the General Counsel 360 ethics page (login required).


DCMA employees are encouraged to exercise fully, freely, and without fear of penalty or reprisal their right to participate in the political process of the nation. DoD has a longstanding and well-defined policy regarding political campaigns and elections to avoid the perception of DoD sponsorship, approval or endorsement of any political campaign, or cause. However, any activity that may be reasonably viewed as directly or indirectly associating the DoD, or any component or personnel of the department, with or in support of political campaign or election events is strictly prohibited.

To protect the integrity of the civil service system, the Hatch Act and DoD Directive 1344.10 impose limitations on political activity by Federal Executive Branch employees and active duty members of the Armed Forces. DoD personnel should be aware of these existing limitations. Adherence to the rules regarding political activities is of paramount importance. Rules concerning individual involvement in political activities vary depending on whether an individual is a Federal civilian employee or an active duty military member.

I encourage you to read the Partisan Political Activity Rules for "Less Restricted" DoD Civilians, Hatch Act Guidance on Social Media, and the Social Media Quick Guide Chart thoroughly to gain a full understanding of the talking points mentioned below.

1. Under DoD Directive 1344.10, a member of the Armed Forces on active duty may:
• Register, vote, and express personal opinions on political candidates and public issues;
• Encourage other military members to exercise voting rights;
• Join a political club (even if partisan) and attend political meetings when not in uniform;
• Sign petitions for specific legislative action or to place a candidate's name on the ballot;
• Write letters to the editor expressing personal views (so long as not part of organized letter writing campaign or solicitation of votes for or against a political party or partisan political cause or candidate);
• Make permissible monetary contributions to a political organization, party, or committee;
• Display a bumper sticker on a member's private vehicle; and
• Attend a partisan or nonpartisan political fundraising activity, meeting, rally, debate, convention, or activity when not in uniform and when no appearance of sponsorship or endorsement can reasonably be drawn.

2. Less Restricted (below the SES level) civilian Executive Branch employees fall under the Hatch Act and can do everything listed above for a member of the Armed Forces on active duty as well as the following activities:
• Volunteer to work on a partisan campaign, and go door to door with the candidate and distribute campaign literature;
• Write speeches for a candidate and attend and be active at political rallies and meetings;
• Join and hold office in a political party or political organization;
• Endorse a candidate for partisan political office in a political advertisement (may not use DoD title);
• Organize and work at a fundraising event (no soliciting or collecting money); and
• Serve as a delegate to a state, local or national political party convention and work to get out the vote on Election Day.

1. Member of the Armed Forces on active duty may not:
• Participate in partisan political fundraising activities, rallies, conventions, management of campaigns, or debates. The prohibition is broad and does not depend on whether a member is in uniform.
• Use official authority or influence to interfere with an election, affect the course or outcome of an election, solicit votes for a particular candidate or issue, or require or solicit political contributions from others;
• Publish partisan political articles or letters soliciting votes for or against a partisan political party, candidate, or cause;
• Participate in any radio, television, or other program or group discussion as an advocate for or against a partisan political party, candidate, or cause;
• Serve in official capacity/sponsor a partisan political club;
• Conduct a political opinion survey or distribute political literature;
• Speak before a partisan political gathering;
• Work for a political committee or candidate during a campaign, on election day, or while closing out a campaign;
• Engage in fundraising activity for any political candidate ... in Federal offices, facilities, or on military reservations;
• March or ride in partisan parades;
• Participate in organized efforts to provide voters transportation to polling places if associated with a political party;
• Sell tickets for or actively promote partisan political dinners and similar fundraising events;
• Make a campaign contribution to or receive or solicit a campaign contribution from any other member of the Armed Forces on active duty; or
• Display a partisan political sign visible to the public at one's residence on a military installation.

2. Prohibited Political Activities Applicable to All DoD Civilian employees.
• Use their official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election; including coercing subordinates to participate in political activity, using one's official title while participating in political activity; using agency social media for political purposes;
• Personally solicit, accept or receiving a political contribution from any person, including hosting or serving as a POC for a fundraising event for a political party or candidate for partisan political office, signing a solicitation letter, collecting money at a fundraising event, soliciting donations through a phone bank;
• Run for the nomination or as a candidate for election to a partisan political office (an election where candidates are running with party affiliation, usually as Democrats or Republicans);
• Participate in political activity while on duty or in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties by an individual employed by DoD;
• Engage in political activity while wearing a uniform or official insignia identifying the office or position of the DoD employee;
• Engage in political activity while using any vehicle owned or leased by the Government of the United States or any agency or instrumentality thereof;
• Solicit or discourage the participation in any political activity of any person who has an application for any compensation, grant, contract, ruling, license, permit, or certificate pending before the employee's office; or
• Solicit or discourage the participation in any political activity of any person who is the subject of or a participant in an ongoing audit, investigation, or enforcement action being carried out by the employee's office.
• HATCH Act and Social Media (Applicable to Civilian Employees)
• May not tweet, retweet, share, or like a post or content that solicits political contributions.
• May not engage in political activity via social media (email, blog, tweet, post) while on duty, or in a Federal Building (even when off-duty), even if using a personal device or email account, sharing or forwarding content authored by others, or forwarding to friends or like-minded coworkers.
• May not like or follow the social media page of a candidate or partisan group while on duty or in the workplace.
• May not use a social media account in your official capacity to engage in political activity.

If you have any questions on this guidance or political activities in general, you are encouraged to reach out to your respective Agency Ethics Counselor. You may find your Ethics Counselor on the Office of General Counsel's Ethics website using the "Who's Your Ethics Advisor?" (login required)