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Hatch Act update - USDA Office of Ethics


WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Hatch Act is often confused with prohibitions on lobbying. The Hatch Act deals with overt political support for or against a candidate running for partisan political office. It is all about elections. However, the confusion comes into play because "political activity" is broadly defined. At times, a strictly issue-based email or posting on a bulletin board in the workplace can be construed to be political -- if the issue is associated with a partisan political party. Here are the basics you need to remember before you hit the "send" button:

  • "Political activity means an activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group."
  • "Officials of labor organizations who have been given official time to perform representational duties are on duty" [and thus subject to Hatch Act prohibitions]. In other words, being on official time does not afford an employee who is a union official any exemption -- they are still covered by the Hatch Act.

The line is not easy to define, but these examples should help. Penalties for a Hatch Act violation range from a reprimand to removal and debarment from federal employment for a period not to exceed 5 years. Click ahead for more information on the Hatch Act.

For any ethics related questions email the USDA Ethics office or check out their website for more information.