Hatch Act Now Allows Most Public Employees to Seek Political Office


The Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012 no longer prohibits state and local government employees from becoming political candidates “unless the employee’s salary is paid for completely by federal loans or grants” according to guidance issued by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), an independent agency that enforces the Hatch Act.

Despite relaxed candidacy restrictions, prospective candidates must make sure before running for any office that: “their salary is not completely funded by federal loans or grants and applicable state or local laws and ethics rules don’t prohibit you from running,” the OSC emphasizes.

The guidance further states that “the Hatch Act restricts state or local employees from engaging in political misconduct.” It is still very clear that the “prohibitions on coercive conduct or misuse of official authority for partisan purposes still apply to public employees running for office.” Public employees must be aware that they cannot: “use federal or public funds to support their candidacy; use their state or local office to support their candidacy (including email, stationary, office supplies, or other equipment and resources); and ask subordinates to volunteer or contribute to their campaign,” according to the OSC.

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