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Air Force Reserve Command reminds Airmen of rules regarding political activity

  • Published
  • 302nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

With election day right around the corner, Air Force Reserve Command reminds all Reserve Citizen Airmen how to navigate political activity via social media, websites and personal blogs. Please reference the AFRC guidance below or contact your local public affairs office with any questions!

2022 AFR ADDENDUM ON POLITICAL ACTIVITIES GUIDANCE

Below is a summarized list of the political activity rules for Reserve and Guard members who are not on active duty for more than 30 consecutive days. It also provides a recap of the Hatch Act governing federal civilian employee political activities, which includes Air Reserve Technicians when not in military status.

VOTING

CAN: Vote, register to vote, and encourage others to vote, although not as a representative of the armed forces. Airmen may also fully participate in the Federal Voting Assistance Program.

CANNOT: Use your influence or authority to force others to vote or to interfere with the outcome of the election.

POLITICAL ACTIVITIES (BOTH PARTISAN & NON-PARTISAN)

CAN: Join political clubs and attend meetings, rallies, fundraisers, debates, and conventions, as a spectator when not in uniform or on duty and when no inference or appearance of official sponsorship, approval, or endorsement can reasonably be drawn.

CANNOT: Take part in political activities while on duty, in uniform, or as an official representative of the Air Force, or use Air Force property and resources for political purposes. Airmen are never permitted, on or off duty, to join or participate in groups that advocate a supremacist ideology or aim to deny civil rights to individuals.

“Military personnel must not actively advocate supremacist, extremist, or criminal gang doctrine, ideology, or causes, including those that advance, encourage, or advocate illegal discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex, religion, ethnicity, or national origin or those that advance, encourage, or advocate the use of force, violence, or criminal activity or otherwise advance efforts to deprive individuals of their civil rights.” - AFI 51.508 (3.4)

EXPRESSING POLITICAL VIEWS

CAN: As a private citizen and not an official representative of the Air Force you can: sign petitions, display a bumper sticker on your private vehicle, wear political accessories or apparel when not on duty or in uniform, and write a letter expressing your views to editor of newspaper (if you clearly state that the views expressed are those of the individual only and not those of the Air Force or the Department of Defense).

CANNOT: Display political signs or banners other than a bumper sticker on your private vehicle, display signs and banners on base housing, and commissioned officers can’t use contemptuous words against the President and other elected or appointed leaders.

SOCIAL MEDIA

CAN: Follow and post, like, share, or retweet a message in support of or opposition to a political party, candidate in a partisan race, or partisan political group when not on duty, and not in the work place. Always use caution when posting if your accounts associate you with the military to ensure you avoid the view of military endorsement. As noted previously, such indirect association could arise (e.g., through media reports, social media posts) when one’s DoD affiliation comes to light after the event and even if the member was not in uniform or was not in status.

CANNOT: Do any of the above as an official sponsor of the Air Force, use your military rank or official title when posting, or use your official authority to affect the outcome of an election. Don’t use social media accounts that are designated for work purposes in your official capacity to engage in politics, and don’t send messages to subordinates that are about partisan politics. Employees may not post, like, share, or retweet a message or comment in support of or opposition to a political party, candidate in a partisan race, or partisan political group while on duty or in the workplace, even if their social media account is private.

PROTESTS & DEMONSTRATIONS

CAN: Attend and participate in protests, demonstrations, and similar activities when off duty and not in uniform.

CANNOT: Attend such activities in foreign countries, if they are on military property, if their participation includes illegal activity, if it includes the use of “disrespectful” speech about one’s chain of command (including the President) or if the activity is likely to cause violence. Military members (in or out of status) must NOT actively participate in any demonstration or rally where supremacist, extremist, or criminal gang doctrine, ideology, or causes are actively advocated. Nor engage in any activities which may be reasonably viewed as directly or indirectly associating the DoD or Department of the Air Force with a partisan political activity or is otherwise contrary to the spirit and intention of DoDD 1344.10. Note: Such indirect association could arise (e.g., through media reports, social media posts) when one’s DoD affiliation comes to light after the event and even if the member was not in uniform or was not in status. Members may also not bring/use government-provided equipment for any unofficial purpose at off-installation rallies and demonstrations. Also, certain restrictions apply to retired regular and retired Reserve members. If breached, action could call for forfeiture of retired pay due to a conviction of certain offenses.

DONATIONS

CAN: Make monetary donations to political organizations and committees.

CANNOT: Exceed the contribution limits stated in 2 U.S.C. § 441a

POLL WORKERS

CAN: Serve as an election official (poll worker) in a non-partisan capacity when you have the SECAF’s approval.

CANNOT: Serve as an election official in a partisan capacity, or when in uniform or when it would interfere with military duties.

RUNNING FOR ELECTED CIVIL OFFICE

CAN: Campaign for elected office if not on active duty for more than 270 days. Individuals running for office can state they are a member of the Air Force, and include Air Force photos, in their official biography or campaign materials, as long as they include a disclaimer that states the information and photos do not imply endorsement from the Department of the Air Force of The Department of Defense.

CANNOT: Allow your campaigning to interfere with military duty, or use your authority to force or encourage others to campaign for you. No campaigning on base, or in uniform, and you cannot use military photos as primary campaign material, or have military photos that are misleading about your official military duties.

SERVING IN FEDERAL CIVIL OFFICE

CAN: Reservists may serve in an elected office of the federal government if not on active duty for more than 270 days.

CANNOT: Let political duties interfere with military duties. Must resign from office if called to active duty for more than 270 days.

SERVING IN STATE OR LOCAL CIVIL OFFICE

CAN: Reservists may serve in an elected office at the state and local levels if not on active duty for more than 270 days, and may continue to hold their office, but not exercise the duties of it, if called to active duty for more than 270 days, with permission of the SECAF.

CANNOT: Let political duties interfere with military duties.

DO’S AND DON’TS FOR FEDERAL CIVILIANS

Rules governing political activities by government civilians can be found in the Hatch Act. Most Hatch-Act restrictions center on preventing supervisors from influencing subordinates to participate in or contribute to partisan groups or candidates.

Covered employees may not use their official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the result of an election. This “may not” list includes the following:

1. Use of official titles or positions while engaged in political activity.

2. Inviting subordinates to political events or otherwise suggesting to subordinates that they attend political events or undertake a partisan political activity.

3. Soliciting, accepting, or receiving a donation or contribution for a partisan political party, candidate, or group. This includes hosting a political fundraiser and inviting others to a political fundraiser.

4. Being candidates for public office in partisan political elections.

5. Express opinions about candidates, issues or campaigning for or against candidate for partisan political office or a partisan political group while on duty, in any federal office or building, while wearing a uniform or official insignia, or using any federally owned or leased vehicle. This includes things such as distributing, displaying, or wearing campaign materials or items; making contributions to a partisan political party, candidate or group; posting a comment to a blog or a social media site that advocates for or against a partisan political party, candidate, or group; and using any e-mail account or social media to distribute, send, or forward content that advocates for or against a partisan political party, candidate, or group.

6. While on Social Media referring to their official titles or positions while engaged in political activity at any time (note that inclusion of an employee's official title or position on one's social media profile, without more, is not an improper use of official authority). Also prohibited is suggesting or asking anyone to make political contributions at any time. Thus, they should neither provide links to the political contribution page of any partisan group or candidate in a partisan race nor "like," "share," or "retweet" a solicitation from one of those entities, including an invitation to a political fundraising event. An employee, however, may accept an invitation to a political fundraising event from such entities via Facebook or Twitter.

With such a long list of “may nots,” what can federal employees do? The Hatch Act allows employees to do the following so long as there is no use of one’s official position and the activity is not taken while on duty, in a federal office or building, or while in uniform:

1. Running for public office in nonpartisan elections.

2. Registering and voting as they choose.

3. Assisting in voter registration drives.

4. Contributing money to political campaigns, parties, or groups.

5. Attending political fundraising functions, rallies, and meetings.

6. Having an active membership in political clubs or parties.

7. Holding office in political clubs or parties.

8. Signing and circulating nominating petitions.

9. Campaigning for or against referendum questions, constitutional amendments, or municipal ordinances.

10. Distributing campaign literature in partisan elections.

11. Volunteering to work on a partisan political campaign.

12. Expressing opinions about candidates and issues, subject to UCMJ Article 88 which prevents commissioned officers from using contemptuous words against the President, Vice President, SECDEF, SECAF (and the other service secretaries), the Secretary of Homeland Security, Congress, or the Governor of the state in which the officer is stationed.

REFERENCES & RESOURCES:

1. Guidance on Political Activity and DoD Support 2020

2. DoD Directive 1344.10

3. Hatch Act

4. DoDI 1325.06, Handling Dissident and Protest Activities Among Members of the Armed Forces:

https://www.esd.whs.mil/Portals/54/Documents/DD/issuances/dodi/132506p.pdf?ver=2019-07-01-101152-143

5. DoD Directive 1344.10, Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces, February 19, 2008:

https://www.esd.whs.mil/Portals/54/Documents/DD/issuances/dodd/134410p.pdf

6. AFI 51-508, Political Activities, Free Speech and Freedom of Assembly of Air Force Personnel, October 12, 2018:

https://static.e-publishing.af.mil/production/1/af_ja/publication/afi51-508/afi51-508.pdf

7. For more information on retirement pay forfeitures, visit 5 USC § 8312 8. For more information on monetary donations, visit 2 U.S.C. § 441a