Attending the conventions? You might want to brush up on the Hatch Act

The Republican National Convention in 2008 was held in the Twin Cities. The Republican National Convention in 2008 was held in the Twin Cities. Jae C. Hong/AP file photo

It’s convention time. As Republicans gather in Tampa, Fla., and Democrats gather in Charlotte, N.C., federal employees hankering to make the scene might wish to remind themselves of the rules under the Hatch Act.

As spelled out in guidelines prepared by the Office of Special Counsel, federal employees may attend national or state party conventions. But only those in the category of “less restricted employee” may serve as a delegate, alternate or proxy at the gathering. Those who qualify as “further restricted employees” may attend only as a spectator; they may not be a delegate or proxy or address the convention to promote or oppose any candidate.

Further restricted employees are defined by agency and other criteria under the law, but generally are intelligence and law enforcement officials -- except presidential appointees confirmed by the Senate -- along with administrative judges and career members of the Senior Executive Service.

OSC staff attorneys can recall only one recent case in which these restrictions were challenged. Privacy requirements prevent them from divulging details, but the case involved a further restricted employee who served as a delegate to a state convention and passed out campaign literature. State conventions, OSC confirms, are not legally distinct from the quadrennial national confabs. Enjoy!

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