it is just over five months until our national elections are held.
How many federal employees will find themselves in trouble for violating the Hatch Act as a result of partisan political activity during the election cycle?
One can only guess how many current federal employees will end up running into disciplinary or adverse problems as a result of the election but, based on past experience, there will be a number who get caught up in the excitement of a campaign and use their government facilities or engage in other activity that will lead to disciplinary or adverse action. Some of the violations will not be known until after the election but the investigations do not end on election day.
The Office of Special Counsel is already at work and one employee has already found himself subject to a suspension of 180 days. This suspension is for activity that occurred prior to the current election cycle. Obviously, these things can take awhile. This NASA employee was using his government email account and government computer to post partisan statements in support of a candidate for state office in 2006 and 2007.
He also made blog postings promoting campaigns of several candidates, including individuals running for governor and state representative.
The investigation also concluded that the employee solicited political contributions in violation of the Hatch Act. He posted to a blog an invitation to a fundraising event, soliciting a $20 contribution for a partisan political organization. He also posted a message on another blog, asking for contributions of ten dollars or more to support a candidate running for state representative.
For readers who think that federal employees do not get embroiled in investigations involving the Hatch Act, take a look at these articles from our site on this issue:
- “Kerry for President” Stickers Create Problems for VA Employee
- Trick or Treat? Party Invitation Results in Complaint
- AFGE Official Runs Into Hatch Act
- Feeling the Heat of Your Political Passions? Have Another Latte
- Fire That Lawyer!
This is not an extensive list and we certainly have not covered all of these cases. But this should give readers an idea that they need to be careful when engaging in partisan political activity–regardless of the candidate you may be supporting.
“There was time when the Hatch Act was about wearing campaign buttons in the office, or engaging in political activity while on duty, wearing an official uniform, or in a government vehicle,” said Special Counsel Scott Bloch. “Today, modern office technology multiplies the opportunities for employees to abuse their positions and, as in this serious case, to be penalized, even removed from their job, with just a few clicks of a mouse.”
For those who may be wondering, here is a list of frequently asked questions about political activity and the Hatch Act as compiled by the Office of Special Counsel.
Be careful during election season–your federal career may be at stake.