Around Government

Conventional Wisdom

Red state, blue state, what the Hatch Act rules state.

By Charles S. Clark

It’s convention time. As Democrats gather in Charlotte, N.C., and Republicans in Tampa, Fla., this summer, 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! 

Peace Out, Hiring Managers

When you can’t hire many, it’s especially important to hire right. If you’re looking for patient problem-solvers who know their way around flip charts, then Molly Mattessich recommends returned Peace Corps volunteers. She lists 10 reasons to hire former volunteer feds with international experience, touting, among other things, their inclination to keep staff retreat costs down. “We’ll pass on the $16 muffins,” she wrote on the website of the National Peace Corps Association, a nonprofit organization that supports former volunteers. “Thanks to our modest Peace Corps living allowances, we’ve learned our way around a budget—and will respect yours.” Mattessich, who served in Mali and is NPCA’s manager of online initiatives, says Peace Corps volunteers can talk to anyone—whether they’re a village chief, a ministry official or a cranky vendor. She also notes Peace Corps alums’ ability to spice up an office potluck: “peanut stew, papusas, pad Thai . . . Congratulations! Your office gathering just got more interesting.”

- Rebecca Carroll

Dressed,to Impress

Just a few weeks after Time magazine got people talking about its May 21 cover showing a woman breast-feeding her nearly 4-year-old son, the support group Mom2Mom sparked its own version of the debate by posting photos of servicewomen breast-feeding in uniform. “I hope it encourages other women to know they can breast-feed whether they’re active duty, guard or civilian,” Air National Guard member Terran Echegoyen-McCabe, one of the women in the pictures, told MSNBC. The practice falls in a gray area—there is no Air Force policy specifically banning it, but service members should be “mindful of their dress and appearance and present a professional image at all times while in uniform,” a spokeswoman for the service told Yahoo Shine! That standard might vary, but according to the website Military Spouse Central, actions that can be considered inappropriate while in uniform include: 

Holding hands

Eating, drinking or
talking on a cellphone
while walking

Letting your nonmilitary
spouse wear part of
your uniform


Chewing gum

Carrying an umbrella

- Amelia Gruber

Busts Set New Highs

U.S. Coast Guard exceeds largest monthly marijuana haul in 10 years.

Records are meant to be broken, and in May, the U.S. Coast Guard did just that. The record: the most marijuana confiscated in one month. Breaking a decade-old mark, Coasties seized 11,800 pounds of the illegal substance—roughly the weight of a full-grown killer whale—en route to the U.S. coast. 

The haul was a result of better intelligence information as well as closer ties with law enforcement agencies and resources across government and with international partners, officials say. 

“It’s about understanding the enemies and putting assets where you need them,” says Cmdr. Chris O’Neil, who also attributes the achievement to the “ability to partner with other agencies to expand our reach . . . it’s a matter of leveraging relationships.” 

In 2011, the Coast Guard intercepted and confiscated 180,000 pounds of cocaine valued at $2.2 billion, four times the total seized on land by U.S. law enforcement agencies. Halfway through 2012, the service is far outpacing last year’s total. 

In June, the Coast Guard partnered with the U.S. and Colombian navies to bust an attempted transport of nearly 5,000 pounds of cocaine off the coast
of Colombia.

- Eric Katz

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