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Hatch Act 14

At Chapter 14, many of our employees have asked, "Should we be concerned with Hatch Act violations since the current administration has filings on future candidacy?" The short answer...yes. We have received guidance from the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) on this matter. Please use the button links found in the right column of this page. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact our Legislative Coordinator - Sharon Wilbert.

What is the Hatch Act, you may ask? Officially, it is an Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities, a United States federal law whose main provision prohibits employees in the executive branch of the federal government, except the president, vice-president, and certain designated high-level officials of that branch, from engaging in some forms of political activity. The law was named for Senator Carl Hatch of New Mexico. It was most recently amended in 2012.

The 1939 Act forbids the intimidation or bribery of voters and restricts political campaign activities by federal employees. It prohibits using any public funds designated for relief or public works for electoral purposes. It forbids officials paid with federal funds from using promises of jobs, promotion, financial assistance, contracts, or any other benefit to coerce campaign contributions or political support. It provides that persons below the policy-making level in the executive branch of the federal government must not only refrain from political practices that would be illegal for any citizen, but must abstain from "any active part" in political campaigns, using this language to specify those who are exempt:

  • (i) an employee paid from an appropriation for the Executive Office of the President; or

  • (ii) an employee appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, whose position is located within the United States, who determines policies to be pursued by the United States in the nationwide administration of Federal laws.


The language was crafted so that the Secretary of State is covered by the Act's restrictions on political activity. The act also precludes federal employees from membership in "any political organization which advocates the overthrow of our constitutional form of government," a provision meant to prohibit membership in organizations on the far left and far right, such as the German-American Bund and the Communist Party USA.

An amendment on July 19, 1940 extended the Act to certain employees of state and local governments whose positions are primarily paid for by federal funds. It has been interpreted to bar political activity on the part of employees of state agencies administering federal unemployment insurance programs and appointed local law enforcement agency officials with oversight of federal grant funds. The Hatch Act bars state and local government employees from running for public office if any federal funds support the position, even if the position is funded almost entirely with local funds.

The Merit Systems Protection Board and its Office of Special Counsel are responsible for enforcement of the Hatch Act.

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