To help federal employees understand their responsibilities regarding political speech and activities during this election season, OhMyGov is providing readers a two-part series on the Hatch Act and Social Media. Below is a selection of plain language FAQs covering the most asked about topics. Also, don't miss the giant infographic covering 25 detailed situations for both Less Restricted and Further Restricted employees. Download the infographic here >>
I work for the National
Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and I have a public Twitter account where
everything I tweet and everyone I follow are visible; is it okay that I follow
No. As a Further Restricted Employee, you can only follow political candidates if
you keep the list of people you follow private, but what the Office of
Special Counsel failed to note in their document was that Twitter
currently has no way for you to keep that list hidden. Even for
"private" Twitter accounts where your outgoing tweets are protected, the
list of people whom you follow is publicly available. If the Office of
Special Counsel knows of a way to hide one's follow list, we would love
I'm an LRE, can I
retweet a link to a fundraiser for my local Republican nominee?
No. Less Restricted Employees are not allowed to link to, or mention,
any web pages that directly collect contributions on behalf of any
partisan person/organization. Sharing such information on Twitter or
another social media channel is akin to soliciting political donations
and is forbidden by the Hatch Act. The same applies to Further
If I create a Facebook
account under an alias, and don't mention my status as a federal employee, then
can I request contributions for a partisan person/organization?
No. You are subject to
the same restrictions regarding political activities even if you are
using an alias. And especially if you are using a bad alias, like
I have very politically
active friends. What if one of them posts links or makes comments regarding
wanting to get Barack Obama out of office on my Facebook page? Do I need to
delete those comments?
No. You are not
responsible for the comments your friends post on your Facebook or Twitter, but
you should not encourage such comments or reply to them.
Can I write a blog that
contains political views?
Only if you are
off-duty and off-site, and then you must not use your authority to
influence the result of
an election or seek out or accept contributions for a partisan
person/organization. If you are a Further Restricted Employee, you must
be even more cautious, and not
say anything that would be equated to taking an "active part" in a
campaign. In other words, no ranting like Keith Olbermann, or you may
face a visit from the Hatch Act enforcers. And you don't want that.
What constitutes taking
an active part in a campaign?
Anything that can be
equated to the act of handing out campaign literature. Therefore you
distribute links, websites, or info on behalf of a campaign. Or, for
that matter, fly a biplane over the beach with a "Palin for President"
message trailing behind. So don't get any ideas.
Get the full OhMyGov infographic on the Hatch Act and Social Media, with 25 helpful Q&A on complying with federal law. Download it here >>