The 1939 Hatch Act is meant to prevent federal employees and certain state and local government employees from unduly interfering with elections. It prohibits, for example, things like intimidation, bribery, and promising benefits to coerce political support or campaign contributions. It also prohibits the use of federal funds, which includes federal workers and buildings, to assist in political campaigns. Federal employees are also forbidden from joining "any political organization which advocates the overthrow of our constitutional form of government."
With primary elections approaching, now is a good time to reiterate a few rules under the Hatch Act. The federal law, which was most recently amended in 2012, forbids federal workers from doing a number of things, all of which are political. Federal employees are forbidden to take part in political activities while at work or on federal property; receive or solicit political contributions while on duty; and run for office in a partisan election.
For federal employees in the Washington, D.C. area, many inaugural events will be held over the next few weeks. As federal employees, they need to be aware of certain ethical constraints that come with the job. While many of inaugural events may pose no ethical questions for workers, some conflicts could occur. No federal employee wants to be subject to an investigation or discipline because they attended the wrong party or accepted one too many drinks.