OPM wants to relax campaign restrictions on D.C. federal workers

 

The Obama administration and Washington’s congressional delegate agree: the federal government should relax restrictions on political activities for public employees living in D.C.

The Office of Personnel Management on Friday will propose a rule change allowing District residents to accept campaign contributions and run as partisan candidates in local elections while working for the government.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) applied for the amendment, which OPM submitted for entry into the federal register.

The Hatch Act of 1936 governs involvement in political activities by public employees. Congress recently updated the law, which now gives OPM the authority to designate areas where residents who work for the government can campaign and raise money for elections.

The agency said in its proposal that D.C.’s federally employed residents should be added as a designated area because of its “high concentration of federally employed residents, its unique position as the capital of the United States, and the partisan nature of its elections for local public office.”

Current law allows OPM to lift restrictions on those activities “because of special or unusual circumstances,” as the agency said in its proposal.

For what it’s worth, the proposed rule change would list D.C. alphabetically among exempt municipalities, placing the district between Crane, Ind. and Elmer City, Wash.

The changes that Congress and the president recently approved for the Hatch Act included repealing a requirement that federal agencies fire workers who engage in banned political activities. The revised law provides a broader menu of penalties, including suspension, grade reduction, civil fines, and temporary debarment from federal employment.

The recent amendments also allow employees of state and local governments to run for partisan political office as long as they do not receive their full salary from the federal treasury.

For more federal news, visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics.

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E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.

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Josh Hicks · April 4, 2013

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