Complaints of improper political activity expected to rise this fall

Thinkstock

The number of complaints brought against federal employees for participating in partisan political activity during this presidential election cycle is currently lower than in 2008, but the Office of Special Counsel anticipates an uptick during the final months leading up to Nov. 6.

Congress is mulling modernization of the Hatch Act, which restricts government employees from certain political activities. The Office of Special Counsel ordinarily sees an increase during election years in the number of complaints about federal employees conducting political activities such as forwarding campaign emails, organizing and fundraising for political candidates and accepting or receiving political contributions. This is especially true during presidential elections, OSC spokesman Adam Miles said.

Numbers of complaints, however, are lower so far this year, compared with the same point in 2008. Between Jan. 1 and Aug. 20, OSC received 110 federal sector Hatch Act complaints, a figure slightly lower than the same period in 2011 and lower than the same period in 2008, when the office received 126 complaints, according to OSC.

But between Aug. 21, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2008, OSC received 217 additional complaints. The number of complaints also rose in 2010 from previous years.

“If history is any guide, as the campaign gets into full swing over the next few months, we would expect an increase,” Miles said. “Overall, we’re pleased that the number of federal complaints is lower than the same period in 2008, and believe that reflects OSC’s outreach efforts and greater awareness of the Hatch Act’s restrictions. Nevertheless, we are very likely to see a significant uptick in the next few months.”

Complaints of improper political activity can take several years to process and resolve. OSC announced this week two current settlement agreements of violations that took place during the 2010 and 2008 election cycles. A federal technology specialist for the Social Security Administration agreed to 180 days suspension without pay for coordinating volunteer efforts for a 2010 gubernatorial campaign while on duty, including organizing events and soliciting contributions. The second employee, a contracting officer for the General Services Administration, will serve a 30 day suspension without pay for inviting 23 people to an Obama campaign fundraiser and forwarding emails in support of the candidate from her government office.

The 2012 Hatch Act Modernization Act would expand the options for penalizing federal employees who violate the law. Reform efforts also are focused on redefining the Hatch Act in the digital age and easing restrictions for state and municipal employees who want to run for local office.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.