Democracy Dies in Darkness

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With Trump now a candidate, further restrictions on political activities apply to federal employees

By Eric Yoder

March 5, 2018 at 5:49 PM

An attendee wears a “Make America Great Again” hat at the Conservative Political Action Conference at National Harbor, Md., on Feb. 22. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News)

Federal employees, it is time to start leaving those MAGA hats at home. Same goes for Resist hats. Tweeting over your lunch break in the building cafeteria? Watch your hashtag, or you may end up in the hash.

The Office of Special Counsel, a federal agency that enforces the Hatch Act limits on allowable political activities by federal employees, said Monday that additional restrictions now apply because President Trump is officially running for reelection in 2020.

For Hatch Act purposes, that occurred last week with the appointment of Brad Parscale, a digital marketing strategist who worked on the 2016 Trump campaign, to manage the president’s reelection bid. The OSC had said earlier that Trump’s filing of campaign paperwork a year ago with the Federal Election Commission had not met that threshold.

Federal employees are barred at all times from using their official authority to influence the outcome of an election and from involvement in fundraising in support of a political party, candidate in a partisan race or partisan political group.

Certain additional restrictions apply to most employees only when they are on duty and/or in a federal workplace: They may not engage in political activity directed at the success or failure of such a party, candidate or group.

“This prohibition is broad and encompasses more than displays or communications (including in person and via email or social media) that expressly advocate for or against President Trump’s reelection,” says the new guidance.

“For example, while on duty or in the workplace, employees may not: wear, display, or distribute items with the slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ or any other materials from President Trump’s 2016 or 2020 campaigns;  use hashtags such as #MAGA or #ResistTrump in social media posts or other forums; or display non- official pictures of President Trump,” it says.

Penalties for violating the Hatch Act range up to firing.

The OSC recently issued separate guidance on the Hatch Act implications of using social media.

It said, for example, that employees on duty or otherwise in the workplace “may not post, like, share, or retweet a message or comment in support of or opposition to a political party, candidate in a partisan race, or partisan political group” and further may not like, follow or friend the social media account of such a party, candidate or group.

Those policies also apply even if using an alias on social media, it added.


Eric Yoder is a National reporter at The Washington Post. He has reported for The Post since 2000, concentrating on federal employee issues, the budget and government management policies.

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PowerPost

With Trump now a candidate, further restrictions on political activities apply to federal employees

By Eric Yoder

March 5, 2018 at 5:49 PM

An attendee wears a “Make America Great Again” hat at the Conservative Political Action Conference at National Harbor, Md., on Feb. 22. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News)

Federal employees, it is time to start leaving those MAGA hats at home. Same goes for Resist hats. Tweeting over your lunch break in the building cafeteria? Watch your hashtag, or you may end up in the hash.

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