Like most Americans, the employees of the NRC are watching the 2016 elections and considering who to vote for in November. But unlike most Americans, there are a number of political activities which NRC employees – as part of the federal government – cannot do.
The prohibitions are contained in the Hatch Act, a law first passed in 1939. The act restricts executive branch employees in their actions related to partisan elections – and not just at work. The intent behind the restrictions is to maintain a politically neutral federal workforce, free from partisan influence or coercion.
As outlined in the NRC’s Management Directive 7.10, NRC employees cannot engage in political activity while on duty or while inside a federal building. They can’t wear a partisan political button, display a campaign sign in their office or use their government computer to send an email advocating for or against a partisan political candidate or political party.
Even while off duty, NRC employees cannot solicit or receive funds on behalf of a partisan candidate or political party. You also won’t find NRC employees on any ballot for a partisan election – that’s prohibited, too.
Activities most NRC employees are allowed to do on their own time includes:
- Register and vote
- Assist in voter registration drives
- Contribute money to political organizations
- Distribute campaign literature
- Attend political rallies and fundraisers
- Volunteer for a campaign
They can also run for office in a nonpartisan campaign, such as for a seat on a school board.
Career Senior Executive Service employees are under a few additional restrictions. Senate-confirmed Presidential appointees, such as the NRC Chairman and Commissioners, have their own specific rules.
Penalties can range from being reprimanded to being fired to being fined up to $1,000.
More information about what NRC and other federal government workers can and cannot do related to elections can be found here.