Hatch Act

Barr describes some of the restrictions on federal employees’ political activity in this article in today’s Post.

The law prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity while on duty, wearing campaign buttons in the office and putting campaign bumper stickers on a government car. It also bans soliciting, accepting or receiving political contributions, and prohibits employees from using their official positions to influence or interfere with an election. Violators are usually punished and can even lose their jobs.

The last Hatch Act debate in Congress, in 1992 and 1993, occurred just as the Internet revolution was starting. There was nary a word about the potential power of Web sites and e-mail to shape political opinion.

Today, of course, political messages, campaign solicitations, cartoons and satire whiz across the country via e-mail. Federal employees cannot control what pops into their e-mail inbox. However, forwarding an e-mail that urges a vote for a specific candidate or seeks to raise campaign money is a Hatch Act violation if done inside a federal building, the OSC has determined.

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