...and what it means for how I function here.
The Hatch Act, originally passed in 1939 and updated periodically, defines what political activities a federal employee may and may not engage in. I've been a civil servant for a long, long time and I always figured I knew all about it. Today I received a brief refresher; you never know what you don't know.
I always knew I couldn't run for office in a partisan election, can't use my job to promote a party or partisan candidate, can't wear a campaign button for a partisan election at work, can't use my position to influence co-workers or clients with respect to partisan elections. I can't make political donations during the work day, even if I'm using my personal smart phone and even if I'm working from home. I CAN make donations after hours. I also can't do phonebanking even off-hours because that implicitly includes soliciting support and possibly donations and that is always forbidden, even if I'm not using my title or agency affiliation.
The rules are less strict for non-partisan elections as long as there is no endorsement or funding from a political party. (So in an area like San Francisco, even the supposedly non-partisan local positions are probably off limits because the Democratic Party endorses candidates all the time and you really can't win without that endorsement.) Ballot measures are okay since they are issue-based rather than partisan. And some of the rules are relaxed a bit more in Washington, DC and some surrounding communities, presumably based on the assumption that to do otherwise would unduly limit opportunities for elected office in areas where large segments of the public work for the federal government. Some political appointees have additional restrictions that apply them, while still others are permitted to engage in activities that most other government employees may not.
I have no problem with any of the above, in fact I appreciate it, because it means that my supervisors and colleagues may not attempt to influence my vote either. It creates a list of topics which is pretty much off-limits in the workplace and I'm good with that.
Some of the rules are amusing. I can have a coffee mug with a picture of the President on it at my desk, because the President is not running for re-election and cannot do so in the future. On the other hand, in the unlikely event I were so inclined, I could NOT have a similar mug on my desk indicating support for a former Republican candidate, based on the assumption that that person might run again in the future.
I try to be a good employee. Still, it is interesting to find out that I cannot "Like" Facebook posts for specific candidates or parties, whether I'm at work or not. I would assume this means I cannot tip or recommend posts here relating to specific candidates or parties. I assume I can comment. So if you don't see me tipping or rec'ing those posts, it's not because I've changed my views.
In 86 days I will be a retired federal employee and, as far as I know, none of the above restrictions will apply to me any longer.