Guidance Issued on Trump Candidacy


While not officially declaring his candidacy, President Donald Trump last month filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission that establishes he is a candidate for purposes of the Federal Election Campaign Act for the 2020 election.  Last week, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) — the federal agency responsible for implementing the Hatch Act — issued guidance regarding President Trump’s candidacy.   

Here is what the guidance means for you:

The Hatch Act gives federal workers the right to participate in virtually all aspects of the political process, so long as they are off-duty and not on government property. In other words, a federal employee may not engage in partisan political activity while on duty, in uniform, in a government building or in a government car. 

The Hatch Act’s rules apply, however, only to partisan political activity:  that is, activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party or candidate.  Past OSC opinions state that an incumbent president is considered a candidate for purposes of the Hatch Act when he officially announces his candidacy for reelection.

According to OSC, because the 2020 election is still more than three years away, at this time not all expressions of support or opposition of President Trump or his administration constitute prohibited “partisan political activity” under the Hatch Act.  As a result, federal employees are permitted to wear or display pictures or other items, engage in communications, or otherwise express their approval or disapproval of President Trump and his policies or actions in the workplace. 

However, an employee’s actions in the workplace cannot be specifically directed at the success or failure of President Trump’s reelection in 2020. For example, a federal employee cannot hang a sign or send an email stating “Reelect Trump 2020” or “Defeat Trump 2020.”

Once President Trump officially announces his candidacy, the Hatch Act will apply to prohibit federal employees from engaging in any activity in the workplace aimed at his success or failure in the election. Look for further guidance here in the blog and in NTEU communications at that time.

Employees are always permitted to express their support for or opposition to legislation in and outside the workplace because the Hatch Act does not govern legislative activity. Take action on legislative issues