JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas –
Since President Donald Trump has officially filed as a candidate for the 2020 presidential election, the 502nd Air Base Wing Staff Judge Advocate legal office reminds military members and federal employees of the do's and don'ts of political activity participation.
Military members in violation of these rules may face punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. If you are unsure whether or not a political activity is approved, reference Department of Defense Directive 1344.10, Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces, and Air Force Instruction 51-902, Political Activities by Members of the U.S. Air Force.
Active-duty military members may:
· Express a personal opinion on political candidates
· Contribute financially to a candidate and/or political party
· Attend political meetings, rallies, debates, etc., as a spectator, but not in uniform
· Serve as an election official, but not as a representative of a partisan political party
· Display a political bumper sticker on a private vehicle
· Wear a political button, but not in uniform or on duty
· Sign a petition for specific legislative action
· Write a letter to the editor of a newspaper expressing personal political views on issues and/or candidates
· Solicit or raise funds when not in uniform off base for a partisan political cause or candidate
Active-duty military members may not:
· Use official authority or influence to interfere with an election
· Serve in any official capacity or be listed as a sponsor of a partisan political club
· Speak before a partisan political gathering of any kind
· Participate in any radio, television or other program as an advocate of a partisan political party or candidate
· Perform clerical or other duties for a partisan political committee during a campaign or on election day
· March or ride in a partisan political parade
· Conduct a political opinion survey under the backing of a political group
· Distribute partisan political literature
· Solicit or raise funds on base for political partisan cause or candidate
· Participate in any organized effort to provide voters with transportation to the polls if the effort is organized by a partisan political party or candidate
· Sell tickets or actively promote political dinners or events
· Send political emails from government computers or use an official title in political emails
· Display a partisan political sign, poster, banner or similar device visible to the public at one's residence on a military installation
· Display campaign pictures, posters, screen savers and all other campaign material of candidates for partisan political office at work
The Hatch Act governs the permitted and prohibited political activities of government employees at the federal, state and local levels.
Just as military members may face punishment for violating Department of Defense Directive 1344.10 or Air Force Instruction 51-902, federal civilian employees may be disciplined for violating the Hatch Act. Civilian employee discipline for Hatch Act violations can range from a 30-day unpaid suspension to removal.
Examples of prohibited activities under the Hatch Act include wearing partisan political buttons or T-shirts on duty; displaying photos of candidates (other than "official" photos) at the workplace; emailing and forwarding partisan political emails on government email to other federal employees; and engaging in political activity on duty, in any government office or in a government vehicle.
The Hatch Act does allow most civilian employees to take an active part in partisan political management and campaigns.
Specifically, federal employees may be an active member of a political party or club, make campaign speeches for candidates in partisan elections, distribute campaign literature, hold office in political club or party and serve as a delegate to a convention.
For a full list of the do's and don'ts under the Hatch Act, visit the Office of Special Counsel's website at http://www.osc.gov/hatchact.htm.
Complaints should be sent to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which is responsible for investigating reports or complaints concerning Hatch Act violations committed by covered federal employees. Specific instructions on how to file a complaint can be found online at http://www.osc.gov.
Any questions regarding the interpretation of the rules discussed above can be directed to your unit's Staff Judge Advocate office.
(Source: 502nd Air Base Wing Staff Judge Advocate legal office)