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The Hatch Act

The Hatch Act is the 1939 law that regulates the political activities of federal employees and some state and local government workers. The legislation originally prohibited nearly all partisan activity by federal employees, banning them from endorsing candidates, distributing campaign literature, organizing political activities and holding posts in partisan organizations.

On October 6, 1993, former President Clinton signed the Hatch Act Reform Amendments (P.L. 103-94) modifying the 1939 law to allow federal workers to participate in partisan political activities during off-duty hours. Former FMA National President Michael B. Styles was proud to represent FMA at the White House ceremony for the signing of this landmark legislation. These reforms allow federal employees to participate in political activity. You are able to contact your elected officials, petition them to vote on bills, and donate to election campaigns. 

You are prohibited, however, from doing these things on federal time and with federal resources. This means, petitions cannot be sent while you are at work, with your government issued computer, or using your government e-mail address. But once you know these restrictions, it is easy to work around them and ensure your voice is heard. Additionally, FMA worked with Members of Congress to enact further reforms that amend the penalties of violation. Now, the Office of Special Counsel reviews infractions and judges appropriate repercussions, instead of outright termination of an employee.

Despite these revisions, you are still limited in your political actions. Here is a list of Dos and Don'ts:

Federal Hatch Act DosFederal Hatch Act Don'ts
Federal employees may --Federal employees may not --
  • be candidates for public office in nonpartisan elections
  • use official authority or influence to interfere with an election
  • register and vote as they choose
  • assist in voter registration drives
  • solicit or discourage political activity of anyone with business before their agency
  • campaign for or against referendum questions, constitutional amendments, municipal ordinances
  • solicit or receive political contributions (may be done in certain limited situations by federal labor or other employee organizations
  • express opinions about candidates and issues
  • be candidates for public office in partisan elections
  • wear partisan political buttons on duty
  • hold office in political clubs or parties
  • engage in political activity while:
  • attend political fundraising functions
  • attend and be active at political rallies and meetings
  • sign nominating petitions
- on duty
- in a government office
- wearing an official uniform
- using a government vehicle
  • join and be an active member of a political party or club

  • campaign for or against candidates in partisan elections

  • make campaign speeches for candidates in partisan elections
  • distribute campaign literature in partisan elections
  • contribute money to political organizations

Employees of the following agencies (or agency components), or in the following categories, are prohibited from engaging in partisan political activity:

Administrative Law Judges (positions described at 5 U.S.C.  5372)
Central Imagery Office
Central Intelligence Agency
Contract Appeals Boards (positions described at 5 U.S.C.  5372a)
Criminal Division (Department of Justice)
Defense Intelligence Agency
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Federal Elections Commission
Merit Systems Protection Board
National Security Agency
National Security Council
Office of Criminal Investigation (Internal Revenue Service)
Office of Investigative Programs (Customs Service)
Office of Law Enforcement (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms)
Office of Special Counsel
Secret Service
Senior Executive Service (career positions described at 5 U.S.C.  3132(a)(4))

Federal employees desiring further clarification or legal opinions on permissible and prohibited political activities should visit the Hatch Act: Political Activity page of the U.S. Office of Special Council.

FMA's lobbyists are working hard in D.C. to present the Association's viewpoint to lawmakers, but your grassroots efforts are critical to our success. Many of FMA's chapters have great working relationships with their Representatives and Senators, benefiting the Association's legislative agenda and ensuring they fully understand how you and your colleagues serve the country on a daily basis.

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